The Second Sunday of Trinity:  21 June 2020

Collect

Lord, you have taught us

that all our doings without love are nothing worth:

send your Holy Spirit

and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,

the true bond of peace and of all virtues,

without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.

Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen

 

 

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 10:24-39

Jesus said to his disciples,

‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

This is the Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, O Christ

 

 

Sermon Revd Dr Fiona Haworth

 

Every now and then the lectionary throws up disconcerting readings which I mentally file under a heading of ‘Difficult sayings of Jesus.’  There is a good deal of death, threat and conflict in our gospel passage today.  Threats to life, denial, families divided, feel a long way from our experience of Christianity, but it is important to remember that for many followers of Jesus around the world these words speak clearly and directly into their present situation.

This teaching is addressed to the Twelve, about to be sent out to minister in Jesus’ name to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Jesus tells them that he is sending them out as sheep amongst wolves, prepares them to be handed over to the authorities, flogged, and forced to flee from place to place.  All this will happen to you, he tells them, because it will happen to me.  ‘It is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.’  This is where our reading opens.  And perhaps the obvious but unasked question that we skirt around, the elephant in the room, is this:  If this is not our experience of following Jesus, what are we getting wrong? 

Or to reframe the question, what was so contentious about the ministry of Jesus that brought such opposition from the authorities?  Why did commissioning the disciples to proclaim the good news that “The kingdom of heaven has come near” prove so controversial?  Why did healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, casting out demons’, leave the disciples as sheep surrounded by wolves? 

If we cannot answer these questions, we cannot understand what it is to follow Jesus, to be his disciples.  What did Jesus see when he looked at the world?  He saw a people oppressed and occupied by a foreign power, burdened by two taxation systems administered by corrupt officials, order enforced by a brutally efficient army.  Jesus’ ministry drew thousands, offering them dignity and worth, exposing, in his teaching, the injustices within a system that entrenched poverty for many and concentrated wealth in the hands of a few.  It is no wonder that the authorities reacted in the way they did, they had vested interests to protect.

What does Jesus see when he looks at the world today?  A pandemic that is laying bare the fractures in society with the poorest and most disadvantaged communities here in Britain and around the world being hit the hardest.  He sees a world economy descending into a recession that will further impoverish millions.  In Britain alone, as the economy shrank by 20.4% in April, the wealth of the richest people in Britain increased by £25 billion, many owning companies that have taken advantage of the government’s furlough scheme to pay staff.  The chronic underfunding of the health and social care sectors has been uncovered.  Racism has been brought into the light, along with the troubled hidden histories that exert their influences still. 

And against this wider backdrop, the drama that dominated the headlines in the early part of the week was whether or not 1.3 million school children should go hungry over the summer holidays.  That this was even being debated in Britain in 2020 beggar’s belief.  It took the intervention of the young, black footballer Marcus Rashford to push the government to extend the free school meals voucher scheme over the summer holidays, drawing on his own experiences of childhood poverty in a single parent family with a working mother, reliant on school breakfast clubs, free school meals and food banks.  The government U-turn is in addition to the £20 million already raised by Rashford to supply meals to vulnerable people.   

When Jesus speaks of coming to the earth not to bring peace, but to bring a sword, he is not speaking of violent revolt, rather he is asking us to make a choice.  Do we choose the illusion of peace offered by the status quo, or do we choose to follow him in working to bring the just and equitable kingdom of God to our world?  Do we choose our own comfort, or do we choose to make sure that those discomforted by poverty, racism and oppression can live with dignity and freedom from fear?  Do we choose a quiet life, or do we choose to raise our voices against injustice in whatever form it takes?  Make no mistake, working to address the injustices and the inequalities that keep so many in poverty will bring us into conflict with those for whom the system works very nicely.  Following Jesus means being present where Jesus is, present to the world’s misery, pain and injustice, present because God values each and every person on this earth as made in God’s image, bearing God’s light, objects of God’s compassion and love.

The God who made and loves the sparrows, sold for a pittance, is the God who loves us, all of us, without exception, without favouritism.  All lives matter, everyone counts to God.  And our calling is to ensure that those whose lives are less valued by the world are lifted up and enabled to discover their intrinsic God given worth. 

Loving God,
the prophets bear witness to your call to let justice roll like a mighty river,
on earth Jesus embodied that call in his life and teaching,
being as water to the thirsty,
food to the hungry,
shelter to the homeless,
freedom for captives,
sight for the blind,
release for the oppressed.
Guided by Jesus and Inspired by the Spirit,
may we bend our lives to the work of building a just and equitable society
where no one is left behind,
and all can flourish.
We ask this in Jesus name.  Amen.

 

Intercessions, written by Michael Winter

Let us pray

Loving God, you teach us to carry love in our hearts. As we enter this time of prayer, help us to
deepen our faithfulness in you as we open our hearts to your loving Word. Give us the grace to
listen to our neighbours and sustain us through your Holy Spirit to serve you.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer

Heavenly Father, we pray for your church throughout the world, for its growth in number, spiritual
witness and community engagement. We pray for our diocese, our Bishops and our ministry team at
St Peter Mancroft. We are thankful for all who work for and serve our church in many different
ways and, as the building reopens for private prayer, we are grateful for all who have helped to get
the building ready and safe. We pray that the church may continue to be a place where people can
find hope, peace and sanctuary.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Loving God, we pray for the creation that you have given us. Help us and guide us to tend to the
world. We pray for the leaders of our nations, that they may be united in protecting our planet, and
in mending the cracks in our broken society. Help our leaders to listen to the marginalised of our
society so that they may show compassion and care for all the people that they serve. As we come
to the end of Refugee Awareness Week, we remember all who have been displaced in the world
because of fear and terror.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

God of Hope, we pray for all who have been severely affected by the current climate. We bring
before you those who are hungry, people in financial hardship, the lonely, and those facing
redundancy. We pray for your guidance as we seek to confront these injustices. We thank you Lord
for the work of the many charities and organisations that are speaking up for the members of our
society who struggle to be heard.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

God of compassion, we bring before you all who are suffering in mind, body or spirit. We remember
especially those from our own community: Pam, Simon, Janet, Angela, Martin and Val.
Eternal Father, we are thankful for the work of all doctors, nurses and carers, and all who look after
the suffering. Give them the strength and compassion to continue their care for others during these
difficult times.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

God of comfort, we remember all our brothers and sisters who have sadly passed away and now are
joined with you in your Kingdom in Heaven. We remember Nina Prior and Helen Thomas who
recently departed, and Arthur Self, Nellie Fisher, Helen Fribbens, George Taylor, Hilda Smith, John
Buckley, Leslie Robinson and Elsie Rumsey whose anniversaries fall at this time.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

In a moments silence we bring forward our own prayers and petitions.

Almighty God, fill us with your love, that we may be your beacons of light and hope in our troubled
and searching world.

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