Third Sunday of Trinity
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. Let us then open our hearts to God and seek to be receptive as we worship today. Today’s Readings 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. We are to turn away from sin towards 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) Verse 3 is especially poignant as we reflect upon the strength faith offers us in the journey we have been on so far with Covid-19: “Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come, 'tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” That grace is Jesus Christ our Lord, who longs to lead us to his kingdom. And the 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, love and sustenance - without water when we are thirsty where would we be? Today’s Gospel reading reassures us that God notices and rewards even such simple acts of kindness. And we have been living through a time when there has been a great need for kindness, generosity. I am so very proud of the many within our community who have been helping neighbours and friends with shopping, through our relationships and the buddy-up scheme, with Runnymede Borough Council and the Food Bank and in so many simple ways like a ‘phone call. As sensitive servants of God we are called to for opportunities to reach out in faithful love, in the service of others. As our pilgrimage moves to a new phase, and lockdown for many (although not all) ends, we must work to keep everyone safe, for each of us is responsible for the ways in which we interact with the people God brings into our lives. And these relationships, however transient, are not one-way for sometimes these people are there to challenge us, like the prophets and righteous people in today’s Gospel. So, who are these people with messages for us today and how do we recognise them? The Jewish audience that Jesus was teaching would have had a good idea, for the prophets listed in the sacred Jewish text (The Tanakh include Abraham, Moses, Miriam, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Samuel, Ezekiel & Malachi). They would have recognised another who observed the letter of the Law and conscientiously followed the faith. We have been at home for weeks and full participation in worship has not been possible for us but that is about to change. In the Gospel, our Lord refers to “these little ones” which seems to suggest children in their innocence. But we may ask, ‘What do they have in common with the prophets?’ Remember, Jesus is all about relationship, his very name speaks of salvation, God with us. His vocation is to bring all people, not simply the Jews, back into a right relationship with God. This is not simply about religious observance, although prayer and meeting to break the bread are commands and essential to the Christian life. No, this is more about heart intentions. To receive Christ like a child means a simplicity of openness to live by God’s love and accept his gift of service. We are called to be faithful servants of God, to serve the Lord our God, ‘with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind.’ (Matthew 22:37) And to serve others too as we pilgrimage in faith. To do this requires challenge and change and that is not easy to accept. But things are changing all around us, our experiences of Covid-19 have led us to question, ponder, wonder, even fear. This time of global pandemic, which I am afraid is far from over, may have left us feeling unsure, frightened, isolated, even lost. We may be wondering just how to return to some sense of normality, even if it is safe to come back to church? That is why at St Mary’s we will take very careful and slow steps towards resuming normal church and I hope you will be willing to journey with us as we begin to reopen some services, while following our strict policy of handwashing, registration and social distancing. Sadly, there will not be singing for some time and we cannot throw a party and say ‘welcome back’ but our pilgrimage of faith continues, unabated and so does our mission to Thorpe. With people losing their jobs and many facing a struggle ahead, there is much more for us to be about as the Church that speaks of hope and new life! Now, more than ever, we need to be vigilant, consider the needs and safety of everyone else, not simply ourselves and seek to find the lost, the bereaved, the lonely, those struggling, those with mental and physical health challenges and all on the margins, and many more too. Now more than ever we are called to be sensitive servants of God in this community, among our families, neighbours and friends, whatever hoops the world causes us to have to jump through, remembering that God still loves us and will be faithful to us. Now more than ever we need one another, the family of faith. The Christian Church, that is you and I, have an enormous task ahead and we must not become too consumed with our own needs, which is tempting after lockdown. There will come a time soon when we will need to review all we are about as a Church in Thorpe, and I have no doubt there will be moves to review every church and its future in light of the impact of Covid-19. That time will come but now our priority must be to look outward, not in, by continuing to serve this community, by being an example of faith in the midst of people’s lives, seeking to renew our commitment to regular collective worship while we look outwards to the challenges of our time and always sharing God’s faithfulness for all. By this witness as servants of God we demonstrate real God-given Christian love and offer that cup of water to the thirsty. It is this love, which comes from Christ and is found deep within our hearts. It is this love which helps restore order to people’s lives and helps them formulate their priorities with a heavenly goal – hearing the call of the prophet’s past and present! And it is this love, and hope for the future, which is given by Jesus our Lord. We need to be alert to all kinds of possibilities and train ourselves out of our preconceptions and prejudices – all people matter. We must renew our hearts and minds to be perpetually curious and open to God’s call, often heard in the words of others and revealed in the scriptures. God is constantly teaching us through every experience. This past period of lockdown was just one such time but the pilgrimage continues. Friends in faith, we must recognise that all kinds of things prevent us from listening and learning as sensitive disciples. As our daily routines start to change, our diaries fill up, we must remain alert to the needs of others, the needs of our Church and our need to be reunited with one another safely and the very real and comforting presence of Christ our Eucharistic high priest and eternal Saviour. With the benefit of hindsight we can all think of examples in our own lives when we could have learnt lessons from other people from all walks of life, perhaps even in these past 16 weeks. So, if we offer that cup of cold water to a child, if we humble ourselves, come to a child’s level and listen to what God is telling or showing us, life will be immensely richer for it – and that in itself is a “prophet’s reward”. Amen.