The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels Michaelmas
26 September 2021
Today’s Readings: Genesis 28:10-17; John 1:47-51.

Let us pray.

Everlasting God,
you have ordained and constituted the ministries of angels and mortals in a wonderful order:
grant that as your holy angels always serve you in heaven,
so, at your command,
they may help and defend us on earth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.


A Reflection from Carola Darwin

In a poll conducted about 15 years ago by the BBC, 74% of people said that they had had a religious or spiritual experience of some kind, which still affected them. But most had never told anyone about it. Think about that number. If you are on a bus with 9 other people, then 7 or 8 of you have felt the presence of God at some point and in a way that’s still important to you. But if you never tell anyone, or do anything in response, then the danger is that the impression will die away and nothing will change. The stories of Jacob and Nathanael that we’ve heard today are about people who felt the presence of God and responded, and because they responded their lives changed, and so did other peoples. 
‘When Jacob awoke from his sleep,’ it says in Genesis, ‘he thought: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said ‘How awesome is this place! This is no one other than the house of God, this is the gate of Heaven’. And he performed a ritual with the stone that had been his pillow, to remember that this was where he had felt the presence of God.
Nathanael’s sense of the presence of God was even clearer. When he met Jesus and astonishingly, Jesus recognised him, he realised that Jesus was the Son of God, the King of Israel. But the best was yet to come: making a clear link with the story of Jacob’s dream, Jesus told him, ‘You shall see heaven opening and the angels of God ascending and descending.’
There’s another important thing that Nathanael and Jacob had in common. Neither of them are particularly promising candidates for divine revelation. Nathanael was distinctly sceptical ‘ Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?’ he said.  He didn’t seek Jesus out, he’s persuaded to meet him by Philip. Have you ever had that experience? Your friend says ‘come and meet this person, or see this film, or listen to this music and you really don’t want to, it isn’t your thing, you’re not going to enjoy yourself. And when you get there, you’re overwhelmed – you can’t believe you nearly missed it. That’s what happened for Nathanael.
What about Jacob? His behaviour before his dream was even more doubtful. The younger of twins, he grew up jealous of his brother Esau, because their father Isaac loved Esau best, When he got the chance, and with his mother Rebekah’s help, he disguised himself as Esau and Isaac, old and blind, was confused by the disguise and gave Jacob the blessing that he’d intended for Esau. When Esau found out, he was furious and swore that he’ll kill Jacob once Isaac was dead. As so Rebekah persuaded Jacob to run away and start a new life elsewhere.
So far, so pretty disastrous. The sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau, and Jacob’s trickery, led to the family breaking up and the threat of serious violence. And yet it was at this point, when Jacob was on the run, fearing for his life, that God spoke to him. Jacob saw God’s glory reaching down from heaven, and God’s messengers the angels. And he was blessed by God with a promise not only of land but of descendants without number, to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.
There is more to Jacob’s story than we have time for today. He travelled on to meet his father’s kinsman Laban and spent 20 years working for him. But in the end he went back to face Esau. And somehow during that time Jacob had changed. Perhaps it was his experience of Laban (who is just as much of a trickster as Jacob himself). Perhaps it was his experience of sibling rivalry between his two wives, who were sisters. But most of all, surely, it’s because of his experience of God and God’s messengers, both in the dream that we heard about today, and in two later meetings.
In recognising that God had blessed him, Jacob recognised that he need no longer be jealous of Esau. And he sets himself to make things right with his brother, giving him gifts of cattle and deferring to him. And later still, when Isaac finally does die, Jacob and Esau bury him together. Jacob is changed by his encounter with God, not all at once – he remains a tricky character, not always honest, perhaps not always wise. But because he allows his experience of God to change him, God can work through him. Jacob becomes Israel, the foundation of the Jewish nation. And through the Jewish scriptures and traditions, which are the foundation of Christianity as well as Judaism, we are all blessed.
Nathanael was doubtful about Christ – he didn’t think much of people from Nazareth. But Christ recognised what was special about him and called him to be a disciple. God sees our faults – Jacob may have deceived Isaac, but he never deceived God – but he also sees our potential. If you sense God’s presence or feel God’s glory and respond, allowing yourself to be changed, who knows how many people might be blessed through you? Perhaps, like Nathanael, you’ll find that the best is yet to come.

Organ Voluntary

Bolero de concert – Lefebure-Wely
Watch here

Today’s hymn

Angel voices ever singing
Watch here

Music from Matthew

This Sunday, Ruthy will sing two contrasting arias by Handel. At the offertory we’ll have Ombra mai fu, commonly known as the Largo from Xerxes. Although after Handel’s death this aria was rediscovered and has become one of his most well-known vocal pieces, the opera from which it comes was a commercial failure and only lasted for five London performances. The words of the aria refer to a humble plane tree, so common here in the capital. This recording, on period instruments, demonstrates Handel’s gift for creating an expressive vocal line.
‘Ombra mai fu’ from Xerxes by G.F. Handel (1685-1759)
Never was a shade of any plant dearer and more lovely, or more sweet.
Renée Fleming (soprano), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Harry Bicket (conductor)
During communion, we plan to reflect the theme of angels with another favourite, ‘Let the bright Seraphim’ from Handel’s oratorio Sampson. This is a da capo aria (the Italian term means ‘from the top’) and describes the form ABA where after a contrasting middle section the boisterous opening subject returns. It is traditional to decorate the melody on its repeat with ornamentation.
‘Let the bright Seraphim’ from Sampson by G.F. Handel
Let the bright seraphim in burning row, their loud, uplifted angel trumpets blow. Let the cherubic host, in tuneful choirs, touch their immortal harps with golden wires.
Words from ‘At a Solemn Music’ by John Milton (1608-74)
Academy of Ancient Music, Rowan Pierce (soprano), David Blackadder (natural trumpet),
Steven Devine (director, harpsichord)

Gert van Hoef

A live-stream concert broadcast on Thursday 23rd September 2021 from the Old Church in Zwijndrecht:
Watch here

John Etheridge & Vimala Rowe Concert

This will be a great concert!  Invite your friends and neighbours and book now!
Saturday 9th October – 7.30pm

Book now on Eventbrite:
Book here

Daily Readings

Monday: Zechariah 8:1-8; Psalm 102:12-22; Luke 9:46-50.

Tuesday: Zechariah 8:20-end; Psalm 87; Luke 9:51-56.

Wednesday: Revelation 12:7-12; Psalm 138; John 1:47-51.

Thursday: Nehemiah 8:1-12; Psalm 19:7-11; Luke 10:1-12.

Friday: Baruch 1:15-end; Psalm 79:1-9; Luke 10:13-16.

Saturday: Exodus 23:20-23; Psalm 91; Matthew 18:1-5, 10.

Kleftiko – Greek braised lamb

I have often heard, ‘I shan’t be at church on Sunday because we have people to lunch,’ and have threatened sermons on how to do both!  Well, I often have people to lunch on Sunday, but I have never cried off Mass because of it!  If I can do it, anyone can!  Are we seriously choosing between God and lunch?!

There are three simple ways of doing both:
  1. Have a late lunch and ply your guests with drinks and nibbles while you cook.
  2. Do a menu which can be prepared in advance.
  3. Do a ‘slow cook’ which can go in the oven just as you leave for church.
Of course, the secret is a combination of all of the above.

The key to lunch on Sunday is Saturday!  Do as much then as you are able and only leave a couple of things to be done on the day such as making a salad or cooking green vegetables.

This week’s recipe falls into 3).  It’s a very forgiving ‘slow cook’ which will not hurt going over time.

Use a whole shoulder of lamb, preferably cut into chunks, or any cheaper cut with the bone in.  It needs to be a cut with the fat to keep it moist, preferably in pieces.  (Some recipes use a leg, but this will tend to go dry).

Throw the lamb into your largest cast-iron casserole, or oven dish.  Add in about 1kg of waxy potatoes (Charlotte are easily available).  Cut a bulb of garlic in half ‘across the equator’ and nestle it into the meat and potatoes. Squeeze over the juice of a large lemon, or two small ones’ and push the squeezed lemon pieces in too. Throw in 3 or 4 bay leaves and sprinkle with a teaspoon of two of dried oregano.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add about 100ml of water.

Seal the top with a double layer of foil before putting the lid on the casserole, or to seal the oven dish in the same way.  Place in the oven at 160c (150c fan) for 2 and a half hours or so.  Depending on when you get home from church, you can take the foil/lid off to let the meat brown for 30 mins; the potatoes should hold up and you can then replace the lid, turn the oven down to 80c until ready to serve.

Traditionally served with a Greek green salad with feta cheese.
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