Sunday  4 July – 5th Sunday after Trinity 


The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.

Collect

Almighty God,
send down upon your Church
the riches of your Spirit,
and kindle in all who minister the gospel
your countless gifts of grace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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First Reading

Ezekiel 2.1-5

The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.  When I saw this, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of someone speaking.  He said to me:  O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you.  And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me.  He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day.  The descendants are impudent and stubborn.  I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’  Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

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 Gospel

Mark 6.1-13

Jesus came to his home town, and his disciples followed him.  On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded.  They said, ‘Where did this man get all this?  What is this wisdom that has been given to him?  What deeds of power are being done by his hands!  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’  And they took offence at him.

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’  And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.  And he was amazed at their unbelief.  Then he went about among the villages teaching.  He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.  He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.

He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.  If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’  So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.  They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

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 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.

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Sermon

Failure is a word that strikes fear in the heart of everybody.  Our society has become so success-oriented that we have very little tolerance for failure.  We glamorise the successful celebrities of the world, and we ridicule failures and misfits.

In life there are times when we will run up against failure.  People fail every day.  They suffer from failed relationships, failure at work and failure in health.  Most of us can identify with failure, and we know from experience that failure is hard to cope with in a world like ours.  When we fail at something, it is easy to see it as the ultimate and irreversible tragedy of all time.  We see it as the one aspect of life from which there is no reprieve and no reversal.  It can be difficult to let go and to move on.

I find it very interesting that in our passage for today Jesus both experienced failure himself and expected his disciples to fail.  This text is sometimes referred to as “The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth.”  In the last part of this passage, Jesus gives his disciples instructions about what to do when they are rejected.

Jesus has been moving from one success to another in his ministry.  As Mark leads up to this point, we have witnessed some of Jesus’ most amazing miracles – the stilling of the storm, the healing of the demon-possessed man, and the restoration of Jairus’ little daughter to life.  Now, searching for some rest, Jesus journeys back to his own hometown of Nazareth.  At his home synagogue, he begins to teach.  And he earns a response, but hardly like the ones he has received in other places.  As in the other places, the people are astonished at his teaching, but this time they are astonishingly appalled at his message and manner.  They take offence at him.  Here in his home town, he meets with out and out rejection.

Then Jesus turns to commission his disciples for the beginning of their missionary activity.  He tells them that it is time for them to begin their ministry, going two by two into the countryside preaching and casting out unclean spirits.  He advises them to travel lightly taking nothing but a staff.  They are to carry no bread, no bag, and no money in their belts.  They are to wear sandals and not even take an extra tunic.

But Jesus also prepares them for failure when he says, “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”  Jesus makes it clear that they will not be insulated from failure just because they are going in his name.  In fact, he knows that failure will be a real possibility, so he provides his disciples with a kind of sacrament of failure – shaking the dust off their feet.

Jesus’ inauguration of a “sacrament of failure” does not mean that he is sending the disciples out to fail. Rather, he is showing them how to carry on in the face of failure.  Nobody likes to hear they are going to have to face failure in life.  But understanding how Jesus provided the disciples with a sacrament of failure can empower all of us to carry on when we fail.

In his book A Theology of Failure, John Narrone says, “A theology which takes failure seriously does not encourage fatalism, passivity, indifference to the world; rather it affirms that the man who cannot freely lay down his life is one whose ideals and values are already compromised.”

Jesus tells his disciples that they should not fear failure either.  He tells them to shake off the dust and go on.

1) Failure can lead to better things
Sometimes our highest hopes are destroyed so that we can be prepared for better things.  The failure of the caterpillar is the birth of the butterfly.  The death of the seed is the prelude to its resurrection as wheat.  Our failures can be the door to a new success.  Shake off the dust and go on.

2) Failure can be creative
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and it takes failure to jolt us out the routine so that we can be truly creative.  An adventurous life requires risk-taking.  Great courage is needed to face real change.  A great failure can be the influence that enables us to risk and change.

Shake off the dust and go on.

3) Failure can be failure for Christ
Sometimes failure comes our way when we are doing everything in our power to serve Christ.  Some modern theologies promise health, wealth and success if we will only follow Christ.  But he promised that his disciples would experience the same kind of rejection that he experienced.  Let’s not forget that some of the twelve suffered martyrdom for Christ.  Failure is good when the failure is for Christ’s sake.

Shake off the dust and go on.

Failure is not the end of the world.  Failure is not a debilitating disease that ruins us for eternity.  In fact, we should not be afraid to fail – hard to grasp as that idea might be.  We should expect failure at times and we can then exercise Jesus’ sacrament of failure – shake the dust and go on, because failure can ultimately lead to new and greater possibilities – as Christians, we call it resurrection.

Amen