While our church buildings remain closed for public worship we are endeavouring to develop out 9am Sunday morning service to make it more accessible.

It will still be streamed on our Facebook page at 9am as usual. However if you prefer you will also be able join the worship through Zoom. This will also allow those who are not online to join the worship on the telephone. Those who join on Zoom would then be able to remain afterwards for coffee and conversation if they wish.

Information for how to join via Zoom if you would like to will be sent out in the coming days.

 for prayer for the Coming Week

Sunday 17 January
Epiphany 2
9am: Morning Prayer
with Hymns and Reflection
Streamed on facebook.com/parishesbythewall
10.30am: Private Prayer
St Cuthbert’s Haydon Bridge
Wednesday 20 January
2pm: Private Prayer
St Cuthbert’s Haydon Bridge

For your Prayers:
Those in our community…those involved in the roll out of the vaccination programme locally
Those in need… Lesley Towers, Margaret McAllister, Allan Munns, Sue Cantwell, June Henriksen, Eileen Stephenson, Ronald Kennedy, Margaret Kennedy, Jonathan Hutchinson
Those who have died...Vera Charlton and Dorothy Parker
Collect for the Baptism of Christ
Heavenly Father,
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son:
may we recognize him as our Lord
and know ourselves to be your beloved children;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Prayer for the Parishes by the Wall
Gracious Father,
renew the Church in our day
and make your Parishes by the Wall
holy, fruitful, and faithful,
for your glory’s sake,

For Reflection: This week Benjamin reflects on the creative power of our words.
Psalm 29
1  Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2  Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
3  The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders;  
   the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
4  The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation; the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice.
5  The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
6  He makes Lebanon skip like a calf and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7  The voice of the Lord splits the flash of lightning; the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;  
   the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
8  The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe and strips the forests bare;  
   in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’
9  The Lord sits enthroned above the water flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king for evermore.
10  The Lord shall give strength to his people; 
   the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
In Psalm 29 there are, hidden in plain sight, several overlapping themes within the traditions of ancient near-east religious poetry.
The first speaks of the supreme power of God. Sharing similarities with other ancient sources, this Jewish text praises the primeval creative power of God:
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
      the God of glory thunders;  
   the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
The second is the placing of his power not just in God-self, but in God’s voice. Some scholars have noted the links between this Jewish description for the power of the voice of God, and other ancient near-East traditions where the fearsome voices of the gods imposed their will over the whole world.
This leads to the third theme within the Psalm. That the voice of the one true God is not akin to the violent and warring thunder-gods of other traditions. The voice of God is creative and leads those who hear it to peace. As the Psalm concludes:
The Lord shall give strength to his people;  
   the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
What this Psalm reveals to us that the voice of the God of Israel brought peace not the destruction of other gods. The blue-print for this creative voice comes in the first verses of the Book of Genesis. In the story of creation it is God’s voice which is the origin – the literal genesis – of the created order.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.
In these verses we receive a pattern for the creating power of God’s voice. The first thing to notice is that the voice of God never tends to violence or destruction. It is not focused on the defeat of another primeval force, but in transforming that into the just and gentle rule of God’s rule. In the opening lines of Genesis the spirit of God moves over the chaos of the great deep and, as we hear God speak, we hear of the slow and steady transformation of that chaos into the beauty and order of creation.
The seconds thing to notice is that when we hear God speak, we hear a three-fold pattern which repeats not only through these opening verses of the book of Genesis, but which echoes through scripture. God’s voice pronounces God’s will: “Let there be Light”. Through that utterance God’s will is accomplished “and there was light”. And because this creation is formed by God’s will and voice, we recognise that it is good.
On the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, we see this pattern of the creative power of God’s voice echo into this well-known story. Unlike the other Gospel accounts Mark does not offer an explicit account of Jesus’ birth – as we find in Luke and Matthew – or Jesus’ cosmic origins – as we find in John. But that is not to say there is not, what contemporary super-hero films call, an “origin story” in Mark’s Gospel. We hear this origin story as it echoes with God’s creating voice in Mark’s succinct account of Jesus’ baptism.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
As with the creating-voice of God in Genesis we hear in this short but defining origin story the same three-fold movement we heard in the opening verses of Genesis.
God’s voice pronounces God’s creating-will: “You are my Son”. God’s creating-will is to be accomplished in Jesus, the beloved. And because this is God’s will, it is by definition a good thing which God takes pleasure in: “with you I am well pleased”.
In this deep tradition of the creating-power of God’s voice we are reminded of the power of words to create and form the world we live in. Not just in the fabric of our creation, but how this creating-voice can continue to echo into our own reality and experience.
We still live with that tension which Psalm 29 sought to overcome between the destructive and creative power of words; whether the words used, particularly from a position of power, are spoken in creative-power or spoken in destructive-malice and self-interest.
On Wednesday President Trump used the power of his voice and office to continue to pour doubt and confusion on the outcome of the American Presidential Election which was, at the same time, being formally ratified by members of Congress. You don’t need me to describe the horrific scenes that were created by these words, scenes of violence and wanton destruction that left five people dead.
As this crisis was still unfolding, Joe Biden – still waiting to be formally confirmed as the winner of the election – said this:
The words of a president matter. No matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite.
On Wednesday we saw the deadly cost of what powerful words can do. Like the ancient thunder-gods of ancient near-east poetry, President Trump has taken his place in the long line of demagogues who have used the power of words to destroy for selfish ends rather than create for the common good.
We live in a world where we rightly cherish free speech. But we should not be mistaken into thinking that these words freely spoken, particularly in the mouths of the powerful, are a neutral thing. Words have power. If someone with a voice of power says again and again and again, against all the evidence that can be shown, that an election has been stolen, then it will create a world in which, for some people, that is true.
If some people play on the anxieties and worries of locked down population to say that a health emergency is a hoax, that the measures we are asked to follow are for malign ends and not for the safety of others, then some will come to believe that, and live that way, and there will be a cost to those words.
On the Feast of the Baptism of Christ we are reminded that words have power. Whoever we are, we need to remember that our words have power. As we use them, we need to follow that pattern which echoes through scripture and see that our words create a reality which is echoes with the creative voice of our Creator. So that when God looks on the reality we have created with our words God will look on it, and say that it is good.
Questions for reflection

  1. When have the words you use been creative and when have they been destructive?
  2. When have your found words to be creative or destructive in this current crisis?
  3. How might we better use our words to create a better world on the far side of this crisis?