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40 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 11 December 2011

Advent 3: Longing for Unity

A service from St Peter's Church, Peterston Super Ely in the Vale of Glamorgan, led by the Reverend Rachel Lewis, with Camerata directed by Andrew Wilson-Dickson.
Preacher: Rev Edwin Counsell, Education Officer for the Church in Wales. Organist: John Cheer.
Producer: Sian Baker

As Christmas approached, worship in the early centuries of the Christian church would direct thoughts towards the coming of Christ: looking back to his birth and forward to his return at the end of time. Lines inspired by scripture would be sung as a reminder of these events and humanity's continual longing for the kingdom of God. This week's service looks at the desire for unity in a diverse world

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

  • St Peter's Church, Peterston Super Ely, Vale of Glamorgan - 11.12.11

    Leader: Rev Rachel Lewis
    Preacher: Rev Edwin Counsell, Education Officer for the Church in Wales

    Choir: The Welsh Camerata
    M.D.: Andrew Wilson-Dickson
    Organist: John Cheer

    Please note:

    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.

    Opening anno: And now on the 3rd Sunday in Advent, it’s time for Sunday Worship. The preacher is the Rev Edwin Counsell, Education Officer for the Church in Wales and the service is led by the Rev Rachel Lewis.


    Rachel: Good morning and a very warm welcome to St Peter’s Church in the village of Peterston-Super-Ely in the rural Vale of Glamorgan. The capital city of Wales is just a short journey away by car or bus, and the main railway line that links south Wales to London runs alongside the church.

    This church is dedicated to Peter, one of the twelve very different characters whom Jesus called to be disciples.

    They are often identified in scripture and in Christian history by their backgrounds, trades or traits of character, yet it was in just that diversity that the disciples found a common unity in Christ, as they struggled with the truths that Jesus laid before them.

    Peter was nicknamed ‘The Rock’, and we seem to identify with him because of his feet of clay, as the passionate and impulsive disciple and friend denied even knowing Jesus when it came to the crunch.

    So Peter’s vulnerability is a reminder of our own shortcomings, but it’s also a declaration of hope and gives a glimpse of the extent and completeness of God’s love for us.

    The promise of this season is that in spite of our human frailty that separates us from God and divides us one from another, the Advent, the ‘drawing near’ of Christ, offers hope to a fractured world: that we will be exalted to the presence of the Lord, who sets us free.


    Hymn Words: Charles Wesley. Tune: Stuttgart C. F. Witt

    1. Come, thou long expected Jesus,
    Born to set thy people free.
    From our fears and sins release us;
    Let us find our rest in thee.

    2. Israel’s strength and consolation,
    Hope of all the earth thou art,
    Dear desire of every nation,
    Joy of every longing heart.

    3. Born thy people to deliver;
    Born a child and yet a king,
    Born to reign in us for ever;
    Now thy gracious kingdom bring.

    4. By thine own eternal Spirit
    Rule in all our hearts alone:
    By thine all-sufficient merit
    Raise us to thy glorious throne.

    Rachel: Charles Wesley’s hymn declares that Jesus sets us, his people, free from fear and releases us from sin into wholeness.

    This eternal promise is echoed in an ancient text or antiphon, designated for this Third Sunday in Advent, which we will hear the choir sing shortly. In the original Latin text, God, our corner-stone, yearns for the unity and wholeness of his creation, which he fashioned from clay in his image and likeness.


    Edwin: “O King of the nations and their desire,
    The cornerstone making both one
    Come and save the human race,
    Which you fashioned from clay.”


    O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum
    apisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum;
    Veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti

    O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum
    apisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum;
    Veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti


    Rachel: God our Father,
    in loving care your hand has crafted us
    and, as the potter fashions the clay, you have formed us in your image
    through the Holy Spirit;
    you have breathed into us the promise of forgiveness,
    which is the gift of life.

    Edwin: Lord Jesus, you came to gather the nations into your kingdom of peace; Lord have mercy.

    Lord Jesus, you come in word and sacrament to strengthen us in holiness; Christ have mercy.

    Lord Jesus, you will come in glory to judge the living and the dead; Lord have mercy.

    Rachel: In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah describes God looking out across the world he has fashioned and recognising that his faithful people are gathered from many different nations. God invites them all to make their home in his house of prayer.

    ITEM 7: READING: ISAIAH 56:1-8 (TBC)

    Reader: Thus says the Lord:
    Maintain justice, and do what is right,
    for soon my salvation will come,
    and my deliverance be revealed.
    Happy is the mortal who does this,
    the one who holds it fast,
    who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it,
    and refrains from doing any evil.
    And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
    to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
    all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
    and hold fast my covenant—
    these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
    their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
    for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.
    This is the word of the Lord

    All: Thanks be to God


    Choir: words: Kathryn Galloway. Tune: Kingsfold English Country Songs. Harmonised Ralph Vaughan Williams

    1. When out of poverty is born
    A dream that will not die,
    And landless, weary folk find strength
    To stand with heads held high,
    It’s then we learn from those who wait
    To greet the promised day,
    ‘The Lord is coming; don’t lose heart.
    Be blest; prepare the way!’

    2. When people wander far from God,
    Forget to share their bread,
    They find their wealth an empty thing,
    Their spirits are not fed.
    For only just and tender love
    The hungry soul will stay.
    And, so God’s prophets echo still
    ‘Be blest; prepare the way!’

    3. When God took flesh and came to earth,
    The world turned upside down,
    And in the strength of woman’s faith
    The Word of Life was born.
    She knew that God would raise the low,
    It pleased her to obey.
    Rejoice with Mary in the call,
    ‘Be blest; prepare the way!


    Rachel: The call to prepare the way for the coming of Christ rings out across the world again this Advent, drawing together every human heart to know the fullness of God’s promises. The First Letter of Peter invites all who hear to come near to Jesus Christ, the corner-stone, the living stone; to be built into a spiritual house.


    Reader: Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
    Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:
    ‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious;
    and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
    To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
    ‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the very head of the corner’, and
    ‘A stone that makes them stumble,
    and a rock that makes them fall.’
    They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
    But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
    Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;
    once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

    This is the word of the Lord

    All: Thanks be to God

    ITEM 10b “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (CHOIR)

    Written by Johann Hermann Schein

    Now Come Saviour of the nations, known to be the Virgin’s child,
    Known to be the Virgin’s child. All the world is thus amazed,
    God chose such a birth for Him.


    Edwin: That piece by Johann Hermann Schein tells of the whole world’s amazement – that God should come amongst us as a child and reveal himself to us in such a way.

    We live in a world where image is everything. I was involved in a conference recently where the organisers wanted a photo and some details about me to go in the information pack for the people attending.

    Finding a half decent photo was hard enough, but when it came to writing the biographical note…well, it had to include all the usual details about the jobs I’ve done and the places I’ve been over the years.

    But I also had to include something about my wider interests; I could have said that I enjoy contemporary music and travel…which I do; or that I run the odd marathon and spend my spare time with the people I love…which is also true!

    But instead, my pen portrait said “middle age has brought an interest in all the things I was hopeless at in school.” Thinking back to the teacher who gave up marking my Maths homework and just wrote “Oh dear!” at the foot of the page, I realise that the subjects I used to find difficult or just tedious, have come to make a lot more sense and meaning to me over the years.

    These days, science fascinates me, languages intrigue me…even Maths comes in handy!

    But my pen portrait was tricky, because I had to admit that there were things in my life that I just didn’t get…and I’ve got the school reports to prove it!

    And, while we all probably try to portray ourselves in a positive way and a favourable light, it’s only when we take a deep breath, step back and view ourselves in the cold light of day, that we stand any chance of being totally honest with ourselves.

    St Peter, the patron saint of this church, must have fallen over in surprise when Jesus described him as ‘The Rock’, such was his own disordered, hot-tempered character; yet Jesus gave him a nickname that said he would be a foundation that Christian faith would be built upon.

    A generation later, Peter himself defined Jesus as the corner-stone - we heard about that in the opening antiphon and, in the reading from Peter’s First Letter, we’re encouraged to model ourselves in the same way.

    I like the idea of us being cornerstones, modelling Christ at home or in the workplace or community, where any one of us can provide a foundation upon which others can build securely.

    But Peter also picks up Isaiah’s warning that the cornerstone on which the strength of the structure depends can all too easily become an obstacle…a stumbling block.

    These weeks of December are laden with comfortable and reassuring images, from the Christmas crib to Santa and his reindeer, and calling into question any one of those festive corner-stones by worrying about the New Year’s debt or the uncertainties of our lives, is just asking to be labelled as the Advent Grinch!

    As for trying to connect little Baby Jesus with the Christ who was crucified and died that we might live for ever; well, that’s just going over the top!

    Because it asks us to negotiate the seasonal stumbling-blocks and realise that sometimes we proclaim an image of God that’s uncomfortable and, for many people in society, apparently riddled with contradiction.

    But I reckon it’s in this Advent crucible of paradox and uncertainty, that we encounter the reality and fullness of God who, far from sharing with us his power or glory, shares with us his vulnerability, demonstrated quietly in the Incarnation in Bethlehem, confirmed on the Cross and, ultimately, revealed in the Resurrection.

    For those who find belief problematic and difficult or for whom God is perceived as distant or disengaged, that corner-stone of his presence can so easily becomes a stumbling block;

    But when we incorporate stumbling blocks into the rough-hewn structures of our lives they can become corner stones upon which our knowledge and experiences can be built securely.

    Sometimes, once you start to build, that odd shaped and seemingly useless bit of stone that always keeps getting in the way, can turn out to be just the right size and shape once we’ve built a little further.

    And in a world where diversity so readily creates division and separation, there’s a reassurance that we all share a common creation and destiny, and a familiar life-journey informed and influenced by the experiences, fulfilments and regrets that often expose our uncertainty and vulnerability.

    That’s where we find the things God shares with each one of us, filling in the gaps of our past, giving richness to our present and informing our future; and, in so doing, we discover what it means to be made in his image and likeness.


    Words: Christopher Ellis. Tune: Andrew Wilson Dickson

    1. Made in God’s image:
    Woman and man;
    Here is the wholeness:
    God’s human plan.
    Brother and sister,
    Daughter and son,
    Here is a family
    Made to be one

    2. We need each other,
    Old folk and young,
    Sharing together
    Life from the Son.
    This is the meaning,
    Prize to be won,
    Here is a family
    Made to be one.

    3. Dappled creation,
    Diverse its ways,
    Colours and cultures
    Offer their praise.
    Gathered together
    Under the sun,
    Here is a family
    Made to be one.

    4. Praise to the Father
    And to the Son,
    Praise to the Spirit;
    Our God is one.
    Here is our vision,
    New world begun,
    Here is a family
    Made to be one.


    Edwin: “Made in God’s image”; that hymn with words by Christopher Ellis invites us to explore what it means to be made in God’s image and likeness, and to reflect something of his nature and character in our lives.

    And, in the context of today’s Advent antiphon, which declares God to be the cornerstone, the hymn also considers the rich and diverse detail of humanity, built on that foundation, which, as the ancient text says, God fashioned from clay.

    I’ve only once had a go with a potter’s wheel, when I was at school – suffice to say it looks really easy when you see it on the television, or watch an expert throwing a lump of clay, and then effortlessly shaping a pot.

    I remember struggling just to get the clay in the centre of the wheel, let alone managing to mould anything even vaguely recognisable!

    That said, I always enjoyed working with clay, because it’s pliable and malleable and, while it’s worked, any mistakes can always be rectified, unlike using paint where a mistake can stand out permanently…and, if it all goes wrong, clay can always be rolled up into a ball so you can start again.

    The image of God as the potter is powerful; God shapes the clay with skill and love as humanity is given form by his hand.

    Yet one of the hallmarks of our likeness with God is that we share his creativity through the freedom of the decisions and choices we make each day.

    As a consequence, our experiences and relationships add fine detailing to our human clay at every stage of our lives, often, although not exclusively, informed by faith and recognisable, though never uniform, across peoples, races and cultures.

    Those shared experiences, underpinned by the values and moral benchmarks that guide all of us, give purpose and expression to relationships with our families, peers, communities and even between nations.

    That might be the compassion or trust that we bring to the rhythm and reality of our daily lives, or the humility and forgiveness that allows any of us to forgive, and to be forgiven.

    These things are liberating and life-giving because they are
    truly the corner-stones upon which we build the structure of our lives; not in some regimented uniformity that stifles our individual expression, but working in unity and common purpose with God;

    So that the fine and delicate work in moulded clay can co-exist with the rough hewn stumbling blocks of our failures and shortcomings.

    That’s all part of the risk that God takes when he works with us and fashions us; aware that life can leave us mis-shapen, but also knowing that human experience can add detail, beauty, richness and texture to our form.

    And it’s into that same promise of unlimited potential and possibility of human life that we invite God once again this Advent:

    God the potter and the artist whose creativity gives us shape and form, understands that we long in our minds and our hearts to recognise that he is with us.

    Clothed in the clay of human flesh and blood, he comes amongst us in Jesus Christ.

    ITEM 13b: Hymn “Christ is our cornerstone” (Choir) (New English Hymnal)

    1. Christ is our corner-stone
    On him alone we build
    With his true saints alone
    The courts of heaven are filled
    On his great love
    Our hopes we place
    Of present grace
    And joys above.

    2. Oh, then with hymns of praise
    These hallowed courts shall ring;
    Our voices we will raise
    The Three in One to sing;
    And thus proclaim
    In joyful song,
    Both loud and long,
    That glorious Name.

    3. Here may we gain from heaven
    The grace which we implore;
    And may that grace once given
    Be with us evermore,
    Until that day
    When all the blest
    To endless rest
    Are called away.


    In Psalm 118 the Psalmist says,
    ‘Lord I thank you that you have answered me
    And have become my salvation.
    The stone that the builders rejected
    Has become the chief cornerstone
    This is the Lord’s doing;
    It is marvellous in our eyes.
    This is the day that the Lord has made;
    Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

    :And so, “Let us rejoice! The redeemer is coming, whom the Lord has promised,” as the
    choir sing ‘In Advent’ by Felix Mendelssohn, “The name of the Lord be praised for ever!”


    Choir IN ADVENT
    Mendelssohn – Opus 79 No 5

    Lasset uns frohlocken, es nahet der Heiland, den Gott uns verheißen.
    Der Name des Herrn sei gelobet in Ewigkeit.

    ITEM 16: LINK

    Rachel: Archbishop Rowan Williams once said that God calls us into the world to find out what he’s doing…and join in. As we pray for our world in its wondrous diversity, Lord, may we hear your call, recognise your face, respond in our hearts…and join in. Let us pray:


    Words: tr Gerard Moultrie. Tune: Picardy, French carol

    Choir: 1. Let all mortal flesh keep silence
    And with fear and trembling stand;
    Ponder nothing earthly minded,
    For with blessing in his hand
    Christ our God to earth descendeth,
    Our full homage to demand.


    Voice 1: From the depth of our hearts we pray for unity in our world that breaks down divisions between people and nations, builds up understanding and respect and unites people of faith on a common journey into God’s love; Lord, the corner-stone of your presence gives us the foundation on which we build our lives; may the gifts of character and love that you reveal within us, bring us closer to you and to one another as we prepare for the Advent of the Saviour.

    Voice 2: The clay from which we are fashioned is moulded and shaped by God’s hand, to be recognised and respected in every person in our uniqueness and diversity; Lord, give us courage to listen and learn from our shared experiences as your people. May we never forget that we are your handiwork and our striving for unity in the world is a sign of the completeness of your image, made whole when Christ, the Redeemer, comes amongst us.



    2. Kings of kings, yet born of Mary,
    As of old on earth he stood,
    Lord of lords, in human vesture,
    In the body and the blood;
    He will give to all the faithful,
    His own self for heavenly food.


    Voice 1: The desire of God the Father is a peaceful world, united against poverty, discrimination and selfish interest. Not peace at any cost, but reconciliation which makes whole what is broken. Lord, as we seek to establish the supremacy of your love, give wisdom and discernment to world leaders in this time of political and economic uncertainty, and to all whose decisions affect the lives of others. May we be filled with your strength and wisdom and grant that where human love falls short, your divine compassion may heal and make whole.

    Voice 2: The people with whom we travel on life’s journey, in our families and communities, are the people who form the fabric of our lives and our being, who help to build our foundations and determine the shape of our future; Lord, help us to remember the people who make us who we are and uphold us, whether that’s in fellowship or alone; for those who are sick, sad or lonely and those who are brave and patient in the challenges of life; may they reach out to Christ who draws near…who draws us all in unity to his presence.



    3. Rank on rank the host of heaven
    Spreads it vanguard on the way,
    As the Light of light descendeth
    From the realms of endless day
    That the powers of hell may vanish
    As the darkness clears away.

    4. At his feet the six winged seraph;
    Cherubim with sleepless eye,
    Veil their faces to the presence,
    As with ceaseless voice they cry,
    Alleluya, alleluya,
    Alleluya, Lord most high

    ITEM 22: LINK leading into the LORD’S PRAYER (RACHEL & CHOIR)

    Rachel: Peter and the other disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Today we have the confidence to pray to our heavenly Father, whose power and glory are revealed in his kingdom, and who reconciles us in his love…

    All: Our Father who art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy name,
    thy kingdom come,
    thy will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our trespasses
    as we forgive those
    who trespass against us.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
    for thine is the kingdom,
    the power and the glory,
    for ever and ever.


    Rachel: The words of our final hymn tell of the expectation of Christ’s coming that transcends heaven and earth in a single acclamation of joy to the world that the Lord is come!


    Choir: Words: Isaac Watts. Tune: Antioch - Handel arr Lowell Mason

    1. Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
    Let earth receive her King,
    Let every heart prepare him room,
    And heaven and nature sing.

    2. Joy to the earth! The Saviour reigns;
    Let men their songs employ;
    While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
    Repeat the sounding joy.

    3. No more let sins and sorrows grow,
    Nor thorns infest the ground;
    He comes to make his blessings flow
    Far as sin’s curse is found.

    4. He rules the world with truth and grace,
    And makes the nations prove
    The glories of his righteousness,
    And wonders of his love.

    5. Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
    Let earth receive her King,
    Let every heart prepare him room,
    And heaven and nature sing.


    Father of all, we give you thanks and praise, that when we
    were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us
    home. Dying and living, he declared your love, gave us
    grace, and opened the gate of glory. May we who share
    Christ's body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring
    life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the
    world. Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us, so
    we and all your children shall be free, and the whole earth
    live to praise your name; (through Christ our Lord).

    May God the Father, who loved the world so much that he sent his only Son, give you grace to prepare for life eternal.

    May God the Son, who comes to us as redeemer and judge, reveal to you the path from darkness to light.

    May God the Holy Spirit, in whose power the Virgin Mary conceived the Christ, help you bear the fruits of holiness.


    and the blessing of God almighty,
    the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
    be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.

    Closing Anno:

    Sunday Worship came live from St Peter’s Church, Peterston Super Ely in the Vale of Glamorgan and was led by the Rev Rachel Lewis.
    The preacher was the Rev Edwin Counsell and the Welsh Camerata were directed by Andrew Wilson-Dickson. The organist was John Cheer and the producer, Sian Baker.

    Next week Sunday Worship for the last in Advent comes from Methodist College, Belfast.


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