Introduction and Call to Worship
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us of our need to receive the people whom God sends to us. If we are open to what they bring to us, we will be blessed. We open our hearts to God and seek to be receptive as we worship and then we are sent to serve as disciples of the Lord.
First Reading Jeremiah 28:5-9
Jeremiah is face to face with his opponent, Hananiah, who, in the previous verses, has flatly contradicted Jeremiah’s message. Hananiah is reminded that the test of a true prophet is found when his or her words turn out to be true.
Second Reading Romans 6:12-end
In this reading, we are told plainly that wrongdoing of every sort is destructive and to be avoided. The essence of life with God is living a good life. So, we are to turn away from sin and constantly turn to God.
Gospel Matthew 10:40-end
If we are sensitive to God’s servants, realising who they are and welcoming their message and the quality of life within them, we will not miss out on our reward.
HOMILY “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40)
Do you remember the ITV show ‘The Krypton Factor’? It ran for nearly 20 years from 1977 and included a range of challenges which the contestants had to complete, using different human faculties, including mental ability, strength and fitness as they were set challenges such as sticking together shapes by following instructions while blindfolded and remembering differences between pre-recorded stories. At the end of each episode the poor souls would face an army assault course. Truth be told, taking part in ‘The Krypton Factor’ would be my worst nightmare! Just the thought of having to run an assault course fills me with horror! For some everyday life can feel like running an assault course with all sorts of hurdles to overcome. Does this sound familiar to you?
At the end of any race, those taking part need something cooling to drink; a reference to the cup of cold water in today’s Gospel reading reminds us that even an apparently small action can be a demonstration of great respect and love. The reading reassures us that God notices and rewards even such simple acts of kindness. Yet the world around us seems so very troubled.
Generally, people don’t seem to be happy. There are so many demands on us today – many inflicted by the business of the world and expectations set high, and some I suspect self-inflicted. Life for some seems to be a continuous pattern of monotony, as if they are being forced to jump through hoop after hoop, with rules set up by others, running a course that is beyond their ability. And all sorts of life’s challenges can leave us feeling like we are running a race. Do you feel that sometimes too?
I remember a quote by the late great Sir Peter Ustinov who joking said of himself and a school report: “Peter sets himself exceptionally low standards which unfortunately he fails to achieve!” For many of us it can feel like the opposite – we are expected to do so much and reach such a high standard, even beyond our ability. But friends, with Jesus we are called to be the very best people God has made us to be.
We see this mirrored for us in the life of Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, who is a descendent of the great King David. Jesus is the one promised in the Old Testament scriptures, foretold by the great prophets such as Jeremiah. Of course, the Hebrew people didn’t always listen to the prophets, even though they signposted the way to God, emphasised God’s standards and looked to the fulfilment of God’s Law. Friends, we are responsible for the way in which we interact with the people God sends to us – both the historical prophets of old and those we encounter in person day in and out, and their expectations. God’s Word, as spoken by the prophets of old, is fulfilled in Jesus, yet he also faces the challenging expectations of others whose standards are not simply too high but quite wrong. Those incorrect ideals led to Jesus being rejected, crucified and once dead hidden away in a tomb as if rock could contain the brilliance of God’s new creation.
And we know the story doesn’t end there: the shame of the cross is turned into the salvation of the world. Just as God intervened to bring about the biggest change possible, the Incarnation – God among us in human form –, so God acts again and brings about a change in the lifeless body of Jesus, bringing our Lord back to life after three days. Jesus overcomes death and hell, and he brings about a lasting relationship of love that will never cease, as God calls each one of us to active service.
We are not passive bystanders looking back in time at history, for we are disciples, called to be active in the world today with a message to proclaim to a society that so desperately needs relief from the stresses and strains of modern life. Faith is not a one-way system, with God doing all the giving and us lapping up the gifts.
No, we are called to live by God’s love and we are called to action. As St Paul teaches the Romans, “…now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22,23)
Our very own Fr Gerard was just yesterday raised by God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to the sacred order of Priesthood. He has been called deeper into a relationship of loving and serving God and the Church. But it is not just his responsibility. It is ours as a community of faith. We are called to be servants of the Lord in our own time, today. Fr Gerard can lead us, spiritually, in terms of teaching and organisation, but we share with him, lay and ordained, the greatest task of all: being disciples today, and bringing Christ Jesus to this community of Thorpe. Because people need to know that whatever hoops the world causes them to have to jump through, God still loves them, and will be faithful to them, if they are faithful in return.
St Mary’s Church, The Church of England in Thorpe, and all Christians in this place have an enormous job to do. My dear friends in faith, it is only by serving this community, by being an example of faith in the midst of people’s busy lives, and sharing God’s faithfulness for them, that we can demonstrate the real love which being a Christian offers – and enjoy the reward, won for us by Jesus our Saviour.
It is this love which overcomes the temptations of this world, evil and the devil.
It is this love which helps restore order to people’s lives, and helps them formulate their priorities with a heavenly goal. And it is this love, and hope for the future, which is given by Jesus our Lord. So, friends, be faithful, courageous disciples, run the race with joy and live in love and ensure that you always welcome everyone in the love of the Lord and with generosity. Amen.
People today can feel overwhelmed by the demands of modern life and high expectations of others.
We can feel that others set too high an expectation or that we should jump over hurdles as we run life’s race.
We are called to active service as disciples of the Lord today.
Jesus fulfils the law and the Old Testament prophets point to him.