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The first bit (Gathering, collect and confession) was missed off the recording so the  the Sunday morning

service beginning is shown below



begin our service





Confession: The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart God will not despise. Let us come to the Lord, who is full of compassion and acknowledge our transgressions in penitence and faith.

Most merciful God, father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we confess that we have sinned in thought, word and deed. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbour as ourselves. In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us to amend what we are and direct what we shall be that we may do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you, our God. Amen.





READING   Matthew 15: 21-28 read by Sally

Jesus went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.‘ And her daughter was healed instantly.




Sermon      Very Reverend Christopher Armstrong

Face Masks

Sunday 16 August 2000


Face Masks

Face Masks are so irritating!  They tickle, they are suffocating especially in this hot weather but worst of all, they hide our faces and those with whom we speak. So much of our characters are expressed through facial expressions and we don’t see much of that behind a mask. We can easily misjudge a look when half of the face is covered.  Is that a scowl, a grimace or a smile? Perhaps that is what is happening in our reading today (Mt. 15. 21 – 28).  The woman who pleads with Jesus to heal her daughter is completely ignored by him.  What is going on behind that mask?

The colour of masks do not help much either. Some of the floral ones are quite attractive and may say something about their owner but the black ones are very menacing.  We could be forgiven for thinking that we are about to be attacked by Darth Vader!


Biblical Faces

In the bible the face was seen as a true representation of the whole person. Your face was you. It fully described your personality: grumpy, peaceful or happy. It was the great desire of the Israelites to seek God’s face in worship. So Moses goes up the mountain to speak to God face to face. The result was that his face shone so brightly that he had to put a veil over it so that the Israelites weren’t shocked. The angelic figures who accompanied God – the cherubim – had to cover their faces because the glory of God was too much to bear.

The early Christians inherited this view of God’s face.  But the face of God has now been revealed in the person of Jesus.  In the life of Christ we can see close up the attributes of God – a God who is generous, hoping the best for each one of us; a God who heals, who brings people together, who forgives us, picks us up and suffers for us. Paul speaks for us all when he says that we see God as in a mirror, dimly but we shall see him face to face. He also promises us that with unveiled faces we shall behold the glory of God and it will not be ruinous but magnificent. How I long for that experience for myself and for others! That is why we gather in beautiful buildings like this, tailor-made to glimpse the glory of God.  But we know too that the glory of God may also be glimpsed as we come face-to-face with the sick, the bereaved, the badly housed and those exhausted by giving themselves to others on the Coronavirus front-line.

If Jesus is the human face of God, then how many faces has God? The early Christians wrestled with this problem as they tried to explain their various understandings of God as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.  Is that 3 people or one person who has 3 masks, faces, modes of being?  You wouldn’t believe the grief that such discussions caused! In the end The Church settled for the phrase “one substance” to include all three masks of God.  And this is not just an academic question.  In Lancashire where I come from, the Muslims find it very difficult to get their heads around our One God in 3 persons.





My father-in-law was a very good local GP. He was also an excellent DIY enthusiast and an engaging entertainer. After a day’s work in the surgery, he would throw off his suit and settle down to re-wire the house or change into a Dinner Jacket to host some medical event in town.  So was that the doctor, blaspheming under the eaves to sort out the fuse-box or the DIY expert entertaining an archbishop at the top table? We can usually cope with this confusion of roles and sometimes it is entertaining.  On one occasion, a rather otherworldly archiepiscopal guest leaned over to his medical host at dinner to complain about a sharp pain in his shoulder. The two of them retired to an anti-room and the archbishop slipped off his frock coat only to reveal a rather painful coat hanger still in place. Was the archbishop appealing to a generous host, to a DIY expert or to a doctor for help with his pain?

Similarly, with this woman whose daughter was ill in our reading today. Her pleas were ignored by Jesus.  We don’t know why.  Perhaps he was wearing his worried mask but she knew that was not the normal way which Jesus dealt with people, especially the sick. She was not rebuffed by what appeared to be a mask of pre-occupation. So she persevered and was rewarded for her faith, her love and her persistence.

There is a lesson for us here too.  Masks can deceive us.  What appears to be a rebuff from God or our neighbour may just be a hesitation. Our scriptures are filled with examples of those who persevere to see the face of God.  Think of the boy Samuel in the Temple, the man with the barren fig-tree, the woman caught in adultery, the raising of Lazarus and today, Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals.

                “Teach me my God and King, in all things thee to see;”   (George Herbert)            






Bright the vision that delighted
once the sight of Judah’s seer;
sweet the countless tongues united
to entrance the prophet’s ear.

Round the Lord in glory seated
cherubim and seraphim
filled his temple, and repeated
each to each the alternate hymn:

‘Lord, thy glory fills the heaven;
earth is with its fullness stored;
unto thee be glory given,
holy, holy, holy, Lord.’

Heaven is still with glory ringing,
earth takes up the angels’ cry,
‘Holy, holy, holy,’ singing,
‘Lord of hosts, the Lord most high.’

With his seraph train before him,
with his holy Church below,
thus unite we to adore him,
bid we thus our anthem flow:

‘Lord, thy glory fills the heaven;
earth is with its fullness stored;
unto thee be glory given,
holy, holy, holy, Lord.’


Creed    Do you believe and trust in God the Father,

        source of all being and life,

        the one for whom we exist?

All    We believe and trust in him.


Do you believe and trust in God the Son,

        who took our human nature,

        died for us and rose again?

All    We believe and trust in him.


        Do you believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit, Who gives life to the people of God  And makes Christ known in the world?

All    We believe and trust in him.


        This is the faith of the Church.

All    This is our faith.

        We believe and trust in one God,

        Father, Son and Holy Spirit.          Amen.

PRAYERS read by Martin and Françoise



Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Gathering our prayers and praises into one, let us say the Lord’s Prayer together. 





The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore AMEN





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