Sunday 21st June – Second Sunday after Trinity
whose mercy never fails:
deepen our faithfulness to you
and to your living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Jesus summoned the twelve and sent them out with the following instruction: ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.’
Post Communion Prayer
we thank you for feeding us at the supper of your Son:
sustain us with your Spirit,
that we may serve you here on earth
until our joy is complete in heaven,
and we share in the eternal banquet
with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Trinity 2 2020 – Reflection
On Trinity Sunday the Great Commission, the words of the Risen Christ to his disciples at the very end of Matthew’s Gospel set the agenda of mission for his followers:
“…… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19,20a)
That commission given to those who had been with him over his three year ministry in the Holy Land is also the basic guiding purpose for the Church throughout the world and through the centuries since – it is a foundational ‘Mission Statement’. The apostles – for now they were sent rather than simply following – and those to whom they took the Gospel were assured that they would have the strength to fulfil the commission they had been given:
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:20b)
At Pentecost, three weeks ago, we heard of the dramatic coming of the Holy Spirit empowering that frightened group to profess their faith publicly, as Peter, on their behalf, proclaimed:
“….. let all Israel be assured: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36)
Their Master had assured them that the coming of the Holy Spirit would equip them for their new apostolic ministry – “…. the Spirit of truth ….. will guide you into all truth” (John16:13) – and in their new confidence this was clearly the case, and in the New Testament we have the evidence .
Last week the Gospel took us back into the early part of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus sent out his twelve closest followers with the instruction:
“…. preach this message: The kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt 10:7).
But this was a more limited exercise than that envisaged in the Great Commission:
“Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (10: 5,6a).
This was ‘Mission Practice’, rather like ‘Teaching Practice’ for student teachers; these disciples (for which read ‘student apostles’) were still under instruction, still had much to learn from their mentor, but were being given a foretaste of what would be their lifetime vocation.
The passage which follows does not make easy reading as Jesus prepares them for the difficulties they will encounter as they undertake the task he has given them. Our Gospel reading today picked this up as he tells them to be prepared to be treated as he will be treated, and three times he urges them “…. do not be afraid” (10:26,28,31). Faithfulness to Christ, and to the task entrusted to them, will not go unrecognised:
“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” (10:32).
When Matthew wrote his Gospel he would have known that the work of a Christian evangelist could be hard and dangerous and understood the truth of Christ’s words:
“….. anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (10:38)
Of the twelve who had been sent out on this evangelistic exercise one, of course, did not stay the course and betrayed his Master, but for many of the others theirs would be a difficult and dangerous venture when they sought to fulfil the Great Commission. Some might find themselves in unexpected places – like Peter, the Galilean fisherman, in Rome or Thomas in India – and experience martyrdom.
What does this teach us in the extraordinary time in which we find ourselves, with the hidden danger of a virus which has led to a pandemic and to the cessation one of the more obvious ‘outward and visible signs’ of our faith, public worship? When Jesus sent his disciples out he was clear that they would encounter difficulties, but they would be equipped to overcome them. With churches closed we have been able to surmount this disruption of our normal practices, to discover the possibilities – and limitations – of the internet. We need to be prepared for church life never being quite the same as it was three months ago, as we may need to continue to exploit the opportunities which social media provide to reach those who have never come to our church services in obedience to Christ’s Great Commission: “….. go and make disciples of all nations …”.