5th Sunday after Trinity

Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
                   is governed and sanctified:
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 

Ezekiel 2.1-5

The LORD said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious house – they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

 

2 Corinthians 12.2-10

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows – was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no-one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Mark 6.1-13

Jesus went to his home town, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him.

Jesus said to them, “Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

Then Jesus went round teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

 

Reflection by Rodney

 

I think that it should be an absolute rule that you must never try to teach your own children to drive!  They don’t believe that you know best, they won’t listen to you, and they argue with you all the time.  Above all, they are very offended when you get scared by their mistakes.  Much better to pay a stranger to teach them, who will then, of course, become the fount of all knowledge and you will just have to put up with comments like ‘My instructor says that’s really bad driving practice, Dad!’

 

Jesus suffered from much the same thing when, as we hear today in the reading from Mark’s gospel, he tried to preach in his home synagogue, which was full of people who had known him as a boy.  They were unable to see him as anything other than Mary and Joseph’s son, the local boy they had known all his life, and they would not believe that he had anything valuable to teach them.  So, he and his disciples moved on taking their message to strangers.  And we are reminded how, in the course of time, the Christian gospel would spread more readily amongst the gentiles than it did amongst Jesus’s own people, the Jews, many of whom thought that they already knew God and his will for them well enough.  How easy it is for us too to fall into that same trap and to think that we have arrived rather than understanding that we are all of us pilgrims on a journey, constantly listening for new instructions and fresh challenges on the way ahead?

 

Which brings us to the second half of the reading in which Jesus sends his disciples out ordering them to take nothing with them but instead to rely on the welcome and hospitality of the people in the villages to which they will preach, to depend on strangers.  That was a new and unexpected challenge for them, and it must have taken a huge leap of faith on the part of the disciples to set out having made no provision for themselves and trusting that God himself would provide for all their needs.  Again, we can learn from the story as we prepare for a new direction for our churches and how we are ‘organised’ to go about our mission of proclaiming the gospel in the community of which we are part.  Maybe we too are being challenged to trust that God will show us the way and provide any support that we need if we will only have enough faith to take the first steps into an uncertain future.

 

Then we come to Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, from which our first reading today came, in which he dismisses the boastful man who tried to promote his own importance by describing a spectacular mystical experience and says that he will not himself boast but will be content for people to judge him by what they have seen in him or heard from him.  He goes on to say that, although he suffers from a physical disability (which was probably his poor eyesight following his being blinded when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus), he believes that out of his weakness comes the power and strength of relying on and trusting in Christ, rather than on his own strength.  Once again, we too need to reflect on whether we tend to rely on our own strengths and abilities to make plans for the future rather than accepting that we are strongest when we rely on God to direct our efforts and, prayerfully, listen to how he is directing and guiding us.

 

The messages from these two readings are beautifully summed up in the two collects for today.  Firstly - Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Holy Spirit the whole body of the church is governed and sanctified; hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name.  And secondly -    Grant, O Lord, we beseech you, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by your governance, that your church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness.

 

So, as we look to the future of the church on the Island, let us remember those lessons from these readings – (1) that we haven’t arrived at our destination yet but are all of us pilgrims on a journey, constantly listening for new instructions and fresh challenges on the way ahead;  (2)  that maybe we are being challenged at this time of change to trust that God will show us the way and provide whatever support we need if we will only have enough faith, following the example of the disciples, to take the first steps into an uncertain future;  (3)  that we need constantly to reflect on whether we tend to rely on our own strengths and abilities to make plans for the future rather than accepting, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, that we are strongest when we rely on God to direct our efforts and, prayerfully, listen to what he is saying to us – and then pray that God’s good governance, rather than our own cleverness or strength, will so order the course of events that his church may indeed joyfully serve him in all godly quietness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen

 

Post Communion Prayer

Grant, O Lord, we beseech you,
that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered
                   by your governance,
that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

2 Corinthians 12.2-10 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Ezekiel 2.1-5 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Mark 6.1-13 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Some material included in this service is copyright: ©  The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)