Introduction and Call to Worship
“All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.” As we worship the Lord, let us hold the psalmist’s words in our hearts, praying for vision and courage to proclaim through our words and actions Christ’s loving Gospel message to all creation – the “Good News”.
First Reading Jeremiah 20:7-13
Jeremiah accuses God of filling him with prophecies he is compelled to utter but which cause him strife. In voicing his complaint, however, he finds the strength to remain faithful.
Second Reading Romans 6:1b-11
A commitment to following Christ involves dying to the self and its worldly demands, but this is a matter for solemn celebration, not lament.
Gospel Matthew 10:24-39
Openly, explicitly witnessing to the Gospel will bring profound costs, but Jesus assures us that a deepening relationship with God will provide greater compensation.
HOMILY “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)
“Saving Mr. Banks” is a brilliant 2013 period drama film written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Centred on the development of the 1964 film Mary Poppins, the film stars Emma Thompson as author P. L. Travers – a rather prim and proper Lady of distinction – a tad pompous, too – and Tom Hanks as the brash and exuberant filmmaker Walt Disney. Deriving its title from the father in Travers' story, “Saving Mr. Banks” depicts the author's fortnight-long meetings during 1961 in Los Angeles, during which Disney attempts to obtain the screen rights to her novels, creating one of cinema’s great delights. One scene has Walt Disney sat outside, when he hears from upstairs the composers working on the famous song ‘Feed the birds, tuppence a bag’. Disney is moved and responds, “That’ll work!” Mrs Travers is not so sure, questioning the amount of singing… “No, Mary Poppins is not for sale!” She retorts, throwing scripts out of the window as she refuses to give over the character she has created. It’s not about money – it’s about her journey, her relationships, her very self.
In modern life, we too can feel that the world tries to take too much of us! Our time, our family, our money and the list goes on. Our Gospel reading contains a substantial portion of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples before he sends them out on a mission, composed from a varied collection of Christ’s sayings, drawn together by Matthew. It seems the disciples may be wondering if Jesus is asking too much of them also! There is a story to be told – “Good News” to be shared and they are the people to do it, with their diverse skills and talents. And to reassure them, Jesus has promised the Father, creator of all things, is watching out for them – and for that matter, the birds! The sparrows may be regarded as the least in creation, yet God knows them all. The disciples’ task though is not to feed the birds, rather to feed God’s people with his ‘Word’ – the scriptures – in the light of Jesus and his radical new teaching. And the response is that people come to faith and to worship! Alleluia!
Once again, the Gospel message is counter-cultural, perhaps even at direct odds with the consumerism of contemporary society. The Gospel is inclusive – for everyone, just as our worship is for all. We each need to be fed with the “Good News” which transforms our church and transforms lives as it is proclaimed today. We are disciples today, carrying the “Good News”! But to tell the story we must give up on some of our own possessiveness. The disciples are called to action and that means prioritising God’s work and Word in their lives. In some parts of the world, this Christian call to discipleship is perceived by others to be a threat, and therefore some people are persecuted. In some cultures, Christians are treated more like an aged family pet, indulged occasionally, ignored mostly, vaguely missed if they are not around – and our own society is heading in that direction at a rapid rate. As a random person here in the Village said to me just this week: “The Church is irrelevant to me – although I do love the old building. That’s nice.”
Friends in faith, we need courage to proclaim the “Good News” and to live it out wisely, generously, faithfully in our daily lives and our worship. The Church, as God’s agency on earth, is called to proclaim God’s message boldly, to stand out and stand up for a way of living that ensures every sparrow, every aspect of creation, counts.
Context for the Gospel is, as always, important here: Matthew is addressing the post-Easter fledgling Church – his own Christian community, post Judaism, living under threat from internal and political forces, both religious and secular. Verse 38 gives this context away, as it mentions the cross in relation to the disciples before it has been mentioned as part of Christ’s destiny in the wider Gospel. Secondly, notice particularly the initial verses, which are key: Not only do they link the fate of the disciples with that of their teacher, but also, by analogy, they show the inextricable bond between creator and creation. God is the teacher and the disciples are representatives of the whole created order.
This brings us back to the sparrows, food of the poorest, sold for a pittance in the marketplace. Yet they matter – every single bird, indeed the whole of creation matters to God. If you watch on television or even take part in Spring Watch you will know just how important it is for us to count bird populations, the effect of climate change and loss of habitat having profound impacts on bird numbers world-wide. Likewise, the Gospel reminds us that God counts the hairs on our heads, and that is how well the God of creation, the Father of Jesus and our heavenly Father knows each one of us. What the creator achieves in Christ is even more significant: a fulfilment of everything else as God seeks out the lost and a new relationship of love with each one of us, indeed the whole creation. Indeed, in verses 35 – 36, Matthew quotes Micah 7:6, which already, in Judaism, had been interpreted as foretelling the long-awaited and coming Messiah!
Walt Disney had to wait a long time for P L Travers to agree to him using his children’s favourite story, Mary Poppins, and thus creating the musical delight that many generations have enjoyed ever since. At the end of the film, we hear snippets from the original recordings of Mrs Travers and her discussions relating to the film – her firmness, her clear relationship with each character and her desire for the very best outcome for each of them. God, the creator of all things, desires the very best for us and in return a level of commitment from us. That is why we, as Church here in Thorpe strive to offer the very best worship, the very highest standard of who we are, back to God in thanksgiving for his gift of creation and his gift of himself to us. We do this as disciples with “Good News” to share – as those deeply loved by the God of creation who made each and every one of us. Amen.
1. All three readings declare that living and proclaiming God’s message is costly.
2. Taking God’s message to heart is an integral part of the restoration of the relationship between God and humanity.
3. We are not alone. God delights in and cares for each one of us. In our vulnerability and openness to a new way of living, we receive a growing, restored relationship with our heavenly Father and with all aspects of creation through Christ.
4. Our worship should reflect our desire to offer back to God the very best of who we are.