Trinity 4, Sunday 5th July 2020
O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the warhorse from Jerusalem;
and the battle-bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.
15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
16 ‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
17 “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
25 At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
Sermon by Reverend Susan Williams (Associate Priest)
When clergy reach 70 and officially retire, they need the bishop’s permission to carry on taking a public position and continuing to help with ministry. This permission has to be renewed every 3 years (after 80, every year). Regulations have changed recently and I’ve been struggling with a new form to be filled in and discussed with Michelle and the Rural Dean. It’s no bad thing to look at what I’ve been doing, what I hope to do in active ministry, and what changes I need to make. But the form is all about doingthings that can be counted and measured. I’m not sure that that’s the whole story.Meanwhile this weekend which should have provided a busy and joyful occasion when new deacons were ordained, and last year’s deacons, like Sara, made priest and presided at communion for the first time, has turned out rather differently. Like so much else this year, it’s not going to happen quite yet, and when it does, it will look different. Ministry looks different now from when Sara was ordained deacon last year : when I was ordained priest 13 years ago.Times have changed and we have to adapt to operate in the new times. Who knows what new changes and challenges we may find ourselves facing in the coming year? What we domay be different: what’s still the same, I wonder for deacons and priests, for lay ministers and for all believers, trying to live Christian lives in new times?I looked at this week’s collect. It asked for God to be our ruler and guide so that we may pass through things temporal –the things that change with the times –without losing our grip on the lasting things, things eternal, the values that come from God. We’re not asked to avoid the everyday preoccupations that engage us all, but never to let ourselves become so anxious, so busy, or so relieved by newly-recovered freedoms, that we forget the eternal truths –to love and trust in God as well as to love, to care for, to look out for the well-being of our neighbours.It isn’t always easy, even in ‘normal’ times. St Paul knew that. He knew that he was always missing the mark –even in a life committed to being busy for God, Paul would lose sight of Him in all his business and find himself slipping back into doing the wrong thing, even when he knew he shouldn’t. He knew that he cold never manage to break free by himself. He was dependent on the mercy and unfailing love of God to keep on bringing him back on course. He knew that his heart was really set on God, even when he failed in his practice. He needed to keep coming back to theirdependence on the love of God and that was the message he wanted to pass on to all Christians. We depend of God’s love and we can rely on it to give us strength. That’s what ministry is about –realising it ourselves, helping other people to recognise it and then building our actions around it.But not everyone would see it that way. There’s a warning in today’s gospel reading as well as encouragement and promise. It’s particularly the case for those who take a public role. They’re there to take the blame. You can’t get it right. John the Baptist
and Jesus himself were examples. John took a very strict line on law and sin, for other people and for himself –and was condemned for being over the top. Jesus was more generous and outgoing, more anxiousto observe the spirit of the law and reach out topeople who’d got things wrong –and he was blamed for that.You can’t get it right.That’s been obvious as we try to navigate our way through the stresses and strains of lockdown; as we make risky decisions on the perilous way out of lockdown; as we seek to balance different needs and the care of other people. It’s apparent in society and all kinds of business. It’s apparent for the clergy too as they pick their way cautiously through all the complications and regulations (sometimes conflicting) to be able to celebrate new freedoms, to gather and worship and celebrate with one another with due care for the safety and health of all.When Sara’s able to preside at communion she won’t be able to do it in theway we’re used to whether in Church or by Zoom or Facebook. We won’t be able to meet everyone’s hopes and expectations as we’d love to. We can’t meet all the needs of our times and the pressing needs of individuals as fast as they would wish. We can work all hours God sends and still face criticism. No wonder exhausted clergy feel we can never get it right.So, is it worth it, this struggle to pass through things temporal, caring for others, sharing God’s love with them? Jesus doesn’t pretend that there are no burdens for Christians.The Rabbis around Jesus’ time spoke of the ‘yoke’ of the law as a heavy burden, only to be negotiated by those who devoted years of study clarifyingevery detail of what is required of us.But Jesus tells us that hisyoke –the yoke of love and co-operation, working together with each other and with God, carefully shaped and fitted to our needs is there to make bearing our burdens easier and more comfortable. Doing things Jesus’ way making the love of God and love of neighbour central in our hearts, turning to God for help, knowing we can’t do it all alone, and shouldn’t try, is a blessing and a comfort and a strength. Come to me, says Jesus –accept what I have to offer, and I will give you rest and peace.