1st Sunday after Trinity

Collect

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.

 

Genesis 3.8-15

The man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

     “Cursed are you above all the livestock
         and all the wild animals!
     You will crawl on your belly
         and you will eat dust
         all the days of your life.
     And I will put enmity
         between you and the woman,
         and between your offspring and hers;
     he will crush your head,
         and you will strike his heel.”

 

2 Corinthians 4.13-5.1

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

 

Mark 3.20-35

Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no-one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

 

A Reflection by Rodney Fox

 

Nothing stays the same for long.  Last weekend we were treated to a brief taste of summer, with clear blue skies and temperatures in the twenties.  Some brave folk, like my daughter, were even tempted to venture into the sea for a rather chilly swim.  But by Wednesday the sky was clouding over, there was a short shower to dampen our spirits and the temperature started to fall again.  In the church calendar, weeks of celebrating first Easter, then the Ascension and Pentecost and, most recently, the glorious mystery of the Holy Trinity, have come to an end and the mood has shifted as we read this morning about how both Paul and Jesus experienced difficulties, suspicion and opposition, from the people around them.

 

No one knows what the apostle Paul actually looked like, but legend has it that he was short, bald and had a large nose.  His eyesight never fully recovered after he was blinded on the road to Damascus so that he had to dictate his letters to a scribe and, if he did add a personal greeting in his own hand, he wrote in large, clumsy letters.  So, he probably screwed up his eyes in a permanent frown, giving him a somewhat formidable appearance, which his notoriously abrupt manner did nothing to counter.  The picture on the cover of our service sheet at St Peter’s this morning, although it is only the product of the artist’s imagination, seems to capture something of the outwardly forbidding character of the apostle.

 

Paul himself appears to have been well aware of how other people reacted to him and in the passage from his second letter to the Corinthians that is the first reading this morning he is at pains to assure his readers that when he speaks out, it is because his faith compels him and that it is for their own good, so that more and more of them may come to know God.  And he tells them, that he does not lose heart because his outward appearance does not inspire confidence, ‘because’, he says, ‘we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal’ and ‘even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day’.

 

Despite being physically ill-equipped to be a charismatic preacher of the gospel, Paul’s unshakeable belief that God had called him to be the apostle to the gentile world, enabled him to set to one side his personal disabilities as temporary deficiencies in his earthly body, a body that would be replaced in due course by a heavenly body - and so he was able to become the chief agent through whom the early church spread around the Mediterranean to Jewish and gentile communities alike; the founder of numerous Christian churches.  His faith was hugely resilient in the face of difficulty, discouragement and, at times, opposition and persecution.

 

In our second reading from Mark’s gospel, we hear how Jesus too encountered difficulties and powerful opposition to his ministry.  His teaching and healing were attracting large crowds, so large, we are told that the crush of people in the house where he was at the time prevented them from eating.  This public attention it seems caused antagonism from the religious authorities who tried to dismiss him as drawing his power from the devil – and it caused embarrassment to his family, who tried to restrain him by suggesting that he wasn’t himself, had gone a bit daft and was behaving in a manner that went beyond what was reasonable, and they tried to persuade him that he should come home with them.

 

How very human.  What family doesn’t suffer embarrassment from their nearest and dearest?  Only last weekend one of my grandchildren, aged fifteen, informed me that when out shopping with her parents she always walks ten feet away from them in case she is seen by any of her school friends, which would apparently be the cause of deep embarrassment!  So, already

Jesus has attracted the enmity of those in authority and is being socially distanced by his own family.  Of course, no opposition is going to deflect him from his mission, though it doubtless caused him grief.  So, we are told, he has to refute the accusations of the authorities as making no sense and to distance himself from the well-meaning attempts of his family to deflect him from his purpose.

 

And what lessons can we draw from these two readings?   As is often the case, the collect for today sums it up, telling us that, like Paul, we will always face problems when we seek to fulfil God’s will because of the weakness of our mortal nature, our physical, moral and spiritual weaknesses, but that, if we put our whole trust in God, he will grant us the grace to remain true to his commandments and will, so that in the end what we do we may please him.  This resilient faithfulness and trust, despite our own weaknesses and doubts, is what Jesus demonstrated for us and Paul was writing about in his letter to the Corinthians.  It is what enables us to face up to the challenges that God poses us, knowing that he will not ask from us more than, with his help, we shall be able to accomplish.

Very often I finish a reflection with one of my favourite prayers – St Richard’s prayer – which you will recall firstly gives thanks for all that we have been celebrating during these past weeks following Easter and then goes on to pray that we may be enabled to grow in faithful resilience despite all that might conspire to deflect us.  I use it today not only because it is appropriate, but also because the St Martin’s Voices have recorded it as this week’s anthem which I can play for those of you in church -

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits that you have won for us, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.  O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly, day by day all through our lives. Amen

 

 

   

Post Communion Prayer

Eternal Father,
we thank you for nourishing us
with these heavenly gifts:
may our communion strengthen us in faith,
build us up in hope,
and make us grow in love;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

2 Corinthians 4.13-5.1 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Genesis 3.8-15 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Mark 3.20-35 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Post Communion (1st after Trinity) ©  The Archbishops' Council 2000
Collect (1st after Trinity) ©  The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)