Sermon, talk and videos for 20th August 2023

The Breakfast Church service at the Methodist Church was followed by the Communion service at St Peter's.

Content from both services is below, including a video link;

Breakfast Church

Readings; Romans 8, 31-39,  2 Timothy 2, -14

Video , spoken word ( shown at the start of the service;)


In just over an hour’s time, the women’s world cup final will begin and we’ll all be cheering for England. The women’s team have achieved what the men’s team have not managed since 1966- a world cup final. And there’s something about England’s women’s football which seems very different to me, in my eyes anyway. The level of individual skill is unquestionable for both, but it’s how they play, how they interact with each other and with their coach and manager, how they even interact with the other teams and the passion that’s different. Less individual, less aggressive, enjoying the game, yet fiercely competitive. When you hear their manager speak about them or them about her, you can hear they understand each other, they are one. A cohesive team,- as management speak goes, there’s no “I” in that team and they have their eyes fixed on the goal, the goal to play and to win, and to enjoy it.

In our video, the poet spoke of the refocusing our lives away from “I” to Christ, and not just individually, but as church too, as a body of Christians, a team if you like. We may all have individual goals in life, but ultimately, for Christians the goal, the aim is to please God, to do God’s will, to live as God always intended- a life full of love, for God, for others and for ourselves. When we try to do it in our won strength as “I” we often fail.

Individually, we all seek love, sometimes in the wrong places, sometimes we make mistakes in our choices, and often we forget to love ourselves too. When we find what we might feel to be a perfect love in a partner, Christians at least, but others too, bring that love before God. The “I” becomes “we”, and alongside God, becomes three- a team where love is the ultimate goal for all, maybe in football terms, with God as manager, Christ as Coach, the Spirit as trainer all rolled into one.

And equally in the church, when we come together as Christians, is the goal any different, not love between two individuals, but that wider love for all, that love that Christ coached us in, for God, for each other, for ourselves.

That love that has the potential to change the world for good, to bring about what we might understand as God’s kingdom- a world where love reigns supreme.

But we’re not there yet. And sometimes it seems, in churches, that it’s like the England men’s team- we take a long nostalgic look at the past and say it was always better, and when can it be like that again-and we try, and try again but fail to be the team that can reach the goals of today.

And why. Because of the “I”. Because we all think we know best. Because we all think we can do it ourselves. Because we put “I” first, not Christ. Because we don’t trust God enough, don’t know God enough, don’t live God enough, don’t see God enough, don’t hear God enough, don’t love God enough.

Which is odd, because, as Paul said to the Romans, there is nothing that can separate God from us, nothing, and as he said to Timothy, even when we are faithless, God is still faithful to us. Not just us, not just the church, but everyone. God is faithful to everyone. God so loved the world that he sent his son- how many times do we have to repeat that for that deep truth to sink in. So why we persist in thinking we can do things in our own strength fails me.

God loves us so much we can actually put the “I” to one side, he’s got you and me already, we don’t need to worry unduly about ourselves. We just need to put Christ there instead. In the centre. And we might just be surprised by the result, for ourselves, for our church, for our communities and for the world.

If we  can trust him enough.  Amen


St Peter's


Matthew 15, 21-28

Romans 11, 1-2, 29-32


Every time we come before the Lord’s table as we will today, we echo the words of the Canaanite woman in our text:

“ We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table”

It’s a  tough text in Matthew’s gospel, and identifying with the Canaanite woman might also seem hard in the circumstances of the text. She had come to Jesus, desperate for her daughter- not herself, you might note. And first she’s ignored by Jesus, he doesn’t even acknowledge her, then the disciples try to turn this foreigner, this non-Jew, this woman away. When, in her desperation she begs at Jesus’ feet, he insults her, referring to her people, the Canaanites as dogs against the children of God, the Jews.

Yet she persists, turning his words – “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”. Then, and only then, does Jesus yield to her faith and her daughter is healed.

As we come to the Lord’s table, are we identifying as rejected, foreigners before God, needing to beg for God’s mercy? Even though we say the words the Canaanite women said? I don’t think we do.

On the contrary, instead I’d venture to say we identify ourselves as the faithful, the religious, Christians, in a non-believing secular world just as the Jews of Jesus’ day, and   indeed Jesus himself from these words, regarded themselves as the children of God, the chosen ones, the holders of the true faith.

As I said it’s a tough text. It seems to go against the Jesus we know from the gospels, the compassionate, the one who went out of his way to seek the downtrodden, the rejected, the foreigner, the one who told the parable of the Good Samaritan, the one who spoke with the woman at the well, the one who invited himself to dinner with taxpayers, and spoke with occupying soldiers. Those the rest of the world rejected.


If we turn to our reading from Romans Paul seems to be tackling a somewhat similar, yet opposite problem- he asks, did God reject his people when speaking of the Christians who had been or were Jews against those who were Gentiles, those not of the “chosen people”? Obviously, there were struggles in the early church, perhaps a struggle over hierarchy even, or who had the “true” faith. If God was accepting Gentiles now did it mean the faithful Jews were being rejected? Was that fair even?

What Paul points out, is that, of course, the Jewish people had not, over history proven a perfect faithfulness to God, yet he had still been faithful to them and continued to do so, and just because that mercy was extended to the Gentiles through the death of Christ and his resurrection, didn’t mean those of Jewish origins were rejected.

So, what do we learn from the two passages put side by side? Firstly, as Paul says, the wideness of God’s mercy- it is all encompassing, indeed in John’s gospel we read that God so loved the world that he sent his Son, not any select part of it, but the world, all, everyone in every place.

Secondly Paul turns to the mystery of God- it’s not a cop out, a “we can’t possibly understand, but that’s the way it is” sort of argument, although, of course with our miniscule human minds compared to God, we can never begin to understand the totality of God’s  mystery, but it’s a reminder of just that- our humanity, our inability to comprehend the wideness of God’s mercy and love.

If we take those two points, does that help us to understand the difficult Matthew passage?


Well, yes and no. It helps us to understand the Jewish way of thinking that led to the disciples and Jesus’ rejection of the woman, but not the seemingly out of character actions and words of Jesus. We might argue, perhaps, that Jesus, the man, from a Jewish background was exhibiting his humanity perhaps, and it’s only after recognising the woman’s faith that the divine in him overcame that humanity.

Or we might surmise that the writer Matthew, writing to a mainly Jewish Christian audience was demonstrating that the gospel was wider than just for the chosen few.

We’ll never know of course, and I’m sure scholar’s and theologians will continue to debate this passage. A little bit of the mystery of God that Paul hints at

But what about us today, when we come to say those words at the Lord’s table.

“We do not presume to come trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies”

“We are not worthy…..”

Of course we’re not, before the perfection of Christ we fall massively short, that’s why he died for us, so that the chasm between God and humankind could be bridged by the cross and the promise of eternity with God beyond be reached again.

“But thou are the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy…”

Mercy again. The breadth and depth and length and infinity that is God’s mercy and love and grace and mystery. Before that we are so unworthy, and yet made worth. By bread and wine, by remembrance of all that Christ is and was and did for us.

Healed and made whole. Like the Canaanite’s daughter. Through faith, not any imagined righteousness we might think we have just because we come to church and call ourselves Christian. Because if we ever dare to believe we are the chosen ones, the only ones who belong to God, then we fall right into the same camp as the early Christian Jews who struggled to accept the foreigner. Perhaps the dogs under the table of our day are those whom humanity insults by persecution and rejection, the refugee, the homeless, the alien, or even in church, the not-like us, or the hedonists, the drunkards, different sexual orientation, the partygoers, the scoffers, or the non- church-goer of every shape and hue that we might somehow think less worthy.

But there are no longer any dogs under the table. In Galatians Paul makes it crystal clear, there are, in Christ,  no Jew nor Greek, there is no slave nor free, there is no male and female. For you all are one in Christ Jesus. 

We are all unworthy, the whole of humanity, but we are all accepted and deeply and wholly loved in Christ’s mercy. Every single one. And we here and in all churches, as Christians, are all charged by Christ, commissioned by Christ, as his body here on earth, to accept and deeply love in his name too.

Come before the Lord’s table. It is he who invites you and all people. In God’s infinite mercy and love. Amen