First Sunday after Trinity: 14 June 2020

COLLECT FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

O God,

the strength of all those who put their trust in you,

mercifully accept our prayers

and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature

we can do no good thing without you,

grant us the help of your grace,

that in the keeping of your commandments

we may please you both in will and deed;

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 for ever.  Amen.


 

GOSPEL – Matthew 9:35-10:23

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

 

Sermon - Michael Winter

Over the last few weeks, I have become mesmerised, almost obsessed with a YouTube channel that I have discovered.  This YouTube channel has been in the news recently, and even have a feature on the BBC News website, due to the popularity of a video they created.  The channel is called “Cracking the Cryptic” and, basically, it’s a channel dedicated to solving Sudoku puzzles, especially ones with more than your ordinary rule set.  These puzzles go far beyond the Sudoku puzzles you find in discarded newspapers on trains, and way beyond the pocket-sized puzzle books you can find in newsagents.

I like to think of myself as being quite good at logic puzzles, especially sudokus and, having watched a couple of the videos by “Cracking the Cryptic”, I thought I’d definitely be able to tackle the next puzzle they do, I mean, I had been following all of the logic they had been using.  It couldn’t be that difficult, could it?

So, the next day, I loaded up one of the puzzles for the day… and just stared at it for half an hour.  I had no clue where to start.  My brain and, quite literally, this puzzle where a blank.  I was stumped, lost.

Our Gospel today tells us about Jesus summoning his Disciples and sending them out to find the “lost sheep of Israel.”  Specifically, he says not to go among the Gentiles or the Samaritans.  This is a complete contradiction from the Gospel reading from last week, also from Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus says to “Go and make disciples of all nations”.  In order to understand these different messages, we must first understand the context.

Last week’s Gospel comes right at the end of Matthew’s Gospel.  This great commission, as it is known as, is the very last thing in Matthew’s Gospel.  There is no more text after that.  Jesus has completed his mission on Earth, has finished training the disciples.  Like a mother bird letting her chicks spread their wings and fly off into the wider world, Jesus is encouraging his followers to spread his teachings to the all who live in the world.

In contrast, this week’s Gospel comes near the beginning of Jesus’ mission on Earth, and the disciples are very much just young, fledgling chicks at this point.  They have heard a lot of Jesus’ teaching but there is so much that the Disciples still do not know or, probably more crucially, do not fully understand.  It’s going to take baby steps to get the Disciples ready for the “Great Commission” that is to come.  However, don’t be tricked into thinking that this is an easier task!  Being tasked with the mission of talking to and working amongst their fellow Jews is a far more daunting task with no reward (“you received without payment; give without payment”).  Jesus goes on to say that this task he has set them will quite possibly be the worst experience that they will face, comparing them to sheep among wolves.  And they will be hated for it.    They will be overwhelmed by the vastness of the harvest and the sparseness of the labourers. This is definitely being thrown into the deep end!

So, why does Jesus send his followers to do this?  I think the difference is what the aims are.  Last week, the Gospel was all about making disciples.  This week it’s about being disciples.  It’s about teaching the disciples that, yes, they will face hardship and hatred in Jesus’ name, but that they can trust that Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, will be with them.  It is a period of growth.

In the church year, we are now at the start of what some traditions call “ordinary time”.  I’ve always found that a strange term for the church to use, after all, there is nothing “ordinary” about God’s work.  The liturgical colour for this season is green – the colour of growth.  It’s a time where we can grow to be deeper in spirit and stronger as disciples – where we can listen to what God is asking us to do, away from the excitement and drama of the other liturgical seasons of Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas.  It’s a time for being disciples and embracing the world.

One of the big challenges that has always faced the church is how to be relevant when there is no headline-grabbing festival to celebrate.  But I think, if anything, the church could be even more relevant now than it ever has before.  People are searching for, longing for the “ordinary” – something constant to sustain them.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that as we enter “ordinary time”, churches are being allowed, if they are able to, to open up for private prayer.  A recent survey published in the Church Times showed that, during lockdown, 1 in 20 adults have started praying when they didn’t do so before.  People are searching for something.  The harvest is plentiful.

We could consider these people as the “lost sheep” – people on the edge who are hungry for more, hungry to be a part of God’s harvest.  The task Jesus sets us is to search for these lost sheep, to help them discover the good news that Christ gives us and to do this freely, with no expectation to be rewarded.  Finding lost things, gathering harvest, takes some action from us seeking and labouring– we have to be active, just like Jesus tells his disciples to go into every town and village, entering people’s houses.  This might sound scary but, as Jesus says, we don’t need to worry about having the right words or actions to help.  We just need to trust, to have hope, that the Spirit will be there before us, speaking through us, guiding us.

If the last few months have taught me anything, it’s that perfection isn’t as important as I once deemed it to be.  In fact, it’s much more important that we are a presence of Christ in our communities, to those we wave to across the street, the people we “zoom” – being his disciples revelling and sharing in the Good News!  His Spirit will guide us and give us the strength that we need, we just need to be a presence, to be the labourers.

In my world of Sudoku, it’s okay that I wasn’t able to solve the puzzle.  Much like how we and the disciples are guided by the Holy Spirit, I was able to be guided through how to solve the puzzle and learn something about myself through it.  I was able to grow as a Sudoku solver.  These puzzles have far from ordinary rules, but that is mirrored in the times we are living in.  Being a disciple might not seem ordinary to the world, but it might be the “ordinary” that someone needs to encounter right now.  We and the countless number of people striving for something constant, something ordinary in our lives, need to put our trust in God, in His son Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  The spiritual harvest at this time is indeed plentiful, so let us pray that we may be the God’s labourers going out into the harvest.

Amen.

Intercessions, written by Colin Pordham

 

Let us pray

 

Lord, just as you called your disciples, so you have called us; make us worthy of our calling.  Just as you guided your disciples, so guide us, that we may become the people you would have us be. Direct us, that we may do what you would have us do.  We give thanks for your church and for those who have called us to a knowledge of you. And we pray for those who have made sacrifices for us, those who love us and those whom we love.

 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

Loving Father, we pray for the peace of the world; for peace in war-torn areas and in all places where there is racial conflict or tension.  We pray that all world leaders may have the courage and the determination to stamp out the hunger and poverty of so many and we pray that, in our own country and across the world, politicians may be united over the urgent need to heal the deep divisions of our society, particularly among black communities who feel marginalised or forgotten.    

 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

Most merciful God, we have heard in the Gospel reading how Jesus went about curing every disease and every sickness, we give thanks for the selflessness of those working in our National Health Service during the present pandemic and for the skill of those seeking to find a vaccine. Accept our compassion for the suffering and bless all those who are working for their relief.  Give comfort to those feeling afraid or lonely at the present time but, at the same time, we rejoice in the spontaneous acts of kindness and neighbourliness which have been shown to so many.

 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

Eternal Father, as we recall the courage and skill of the emergency services at the present time, we pray for all whose work is often dangerous and yet on whom the lives of others so largely depend – for the members of the armed forces, the police, the fire brigades and the ambulance and lifeboat services.  Lord, comfort and support all who are ill at home or in hospital and from among our own congregation we pray for those named on our Mancroft Newssheet.

 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

As your Son, Jesus Christ, was raised from the dead, so grant resurrection and new life to those who have died, trusting in him; especially we remember Donna Wilson.  From the Book of Remembrance we hold before you Jasmine Lingwood, David Illingworth, Kerry Welden, Ted Geeson, Gladys Brown, Constance Scott and Mabel Sampson.

 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

Fill us, O Lord, with your Holy Spirit, that we may go forth this day with eagerness and with joy, to love and to serve you in holiness and always to do your perfect will.

 

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen