Service of the Word: Sunday 21st June

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth: send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you. Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

READING

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew, chapter 10, beginning at the 24th verse. Glory to Christ our Saviour

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.

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious Gospel:

Praise to Christ our Lord. 

HOMILY

According to the great French philosopher Blaise Pascal there are two kinds of servant. The first kind of servant is the type that is always right out at the front, holding up a torch to light the way. The second kind of servant is the type that’s always at the back, knocking his or her pan in to carry the bags!  I wonder… what kind of servant are you?  I know what kind of servant I am?!! Have a guess – I’m saying nothing!  St Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Spanish mystic and nun, knew what kind of servant she was.  She was the kind that fell into the first category – always up at the front, shining a light to lead the way.   She was renowned, in her time, for her strict asceticism and outstanding holiness, so much so that the other nuns in the convent used to get really fed up with her.  You can imagine them all, walking in the cloister, tutting away to themselves and muttering: “Oh here she goes again”.  Sometimes they would get so cheesed off with her that they would actually fling her out to see if that would make her pipe down and give them peace. On one famous occasion they even put her out in the middle of a rainstorm. And as if getting soaked to the skin in her heavy wool habit wasn’t bad enough, her wee donkey cart capsized and tipped her into a muddy ditch! As she sat there, dripping and filthy, she looked up to heaven and said: “If this is how you treat your friends, Lord, no wonder you don’t have that many!”  Undaunted, though, she battled on, speaking what she knew to be the truth, until eventually someone paid heed. Teresa’s driving desire wasn’t to be popular; all she wanted was to be faithful and obedient.  And God, in the end, rewarded her for her efforts.

When Jesus sent the 12 disciples out he wanted them to be servants like St Teresa – the kind that were out at the front. He knew their message would be unpopular and that it would require grit, determination, sacrifice and self denial to deliver.  Jesus himself had had a hard time speaking into the world so he made it clear that his disciples would have to steel themselves for a dose of the same treatment.  After all, he hadn’t come to bring peace but the very opposite. His followers would have to accept the demands and difficulties of the life that he had called them to and to follow faithfully, no matter what. 

After preaching this one Sunday morning I was accosted by a rather irate parishioner and quizzed about what she saw as my hard line!  “Do we really need to hear all of this negative stuff, Rector?” she asked.  “Why all this harshness and division?  Wasn’t the yoke supposed to be easy and the burden light?  Folk these days get annoyed if they feel for a minute that they’re missing a trick, never mind losing their life!  And what’s the point of setting family members against one another?  Aren’t we supposed to go out, make friends and influence people? Be kind and loving to one another?  Be servants to one another?”  Hmmm!  I’m sure some of you listening to this might be thinking: “that lady had a point”.

But I had a point too!  This Christianity that we follow is no social nicety that has more in common with a walk in the park than a struggle in the jungle! As Christians we are called, in so many ways, to be counter cultural!  And being counter cultural means weighing the contemporary world against the wisdom, truth and beauty of the way of Christ; and yes, blessing where blessing is due, but also critiquing where critique is called for!

Jesus caused a stooshy everywhere he went.  He saw extortion in the Temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers!  What a scene that was! He exercised a humble, servant ministry in the face of the lordy-lordiness of the religious caste of his day.  When they insisted on the letter of the law, he incensed them by asserting the spirit of the law! When he encountered incidents of self-righteous condemnation in the street, he put his neck on the line by offering the antidote of a righteous second chance.  And to the horror of all, he surrounded himself with everybody that was rejected by those that thought they were somebody – Samaritans, tax collectors, shepherds, sinners, prostitutes, ne’er dae wells… and women!!!  No wonder they couldn’t stand him, no wonder they gave him a hard time, no wonder they had to crucify him.

As followers of our counter cultural Lord, we are called to be in the same business. When we detect systemic injustice at work we are duty bound to call it out, no matter what the effect on our careers.  As abortion figures rise we are duty bound to remind the world of the sanctity of life, no matter how many boos and eggs get thrown in our direction.  On the back of the “Black Lives Matter” movement we are duty bound to shout from the rooftops that, not only do black lives matter, but that ALL lives matter and to be ever active in scrutinizing the exclusion lists we all write for our society and for ourselves. All of this will never make us popular, but it will, for sure, keep us faithful and obedient.

The disciples, St Teresa of Avila and so many others all learned that following Christ should come with an ecclesiastical health warning!  His way is one that is counter cultural, it so often goes against the grain. Giving our lives to him means we should never expect an easy time.  Leading from the front and holding a light up to shine on the way requires a readiness to  “take up the cross” daily and to lose our life to find it – richer, deeper, more Christ centred, more God filled… Amen.

INTERCESSIONS

Lord God, you shelter the needy and protect the powerless, through Jesus, whose mission and ministry we share.  Hear our prayers for people everywhere according to their needs…  

We pray for the Church throughout the world, here in Scotland, in our Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway and in this district of Clydesdale…

At all times and in all places may Christians boldly proclaim the good news and so make known the counter culture that is your kingdom on earth…

Lord, hear us… 

We pray for our parish family…

that empowered by the Holy Spirit we may speak the truth planted in our hearts, especially in times of opposition and resistance from the world around us…

Lord, hear us…

We pray for all elected leaders…

that you, Lord, will give them insight into the effects of their decisions and help them to make choices that will bring about the greatest good for all…

Lord, hear us…

We pray for all who experience or live under the threat of violence, turmoil, and conflict…

May they know your strengthening presence and redeeming love…

Lord, hear us…

We pray for those in need of our prayers, remembering especially Christine, Ian, Richard, Rosh, Chris, Bill, Joyce, Louyse, John, Avril, Helga, Karen, Colin, Margaret, Stuart.  May they find comfort and strength in Christ and come through their difficulties to healing and wholeness… 

Lord, hear us…

We pray for those who have died, commending to your care and keeping the souls of Robin, Douglas and Lorna who have died recently and giving thanks for the lives of Betty and Emma whose years minds fall this coming week.  May they, and all the faithful departed, be alive to you in Christ Jesus… 

Lord, hear us…

Lord God, hear the prayers we offer this day, and free us through the resurrection of Jesus, that we may lose our lives for the sake of Christ, and be renewed by the power of the Spirit, who lives and reigns with you for ever and ever. Amen.

The Revd Canon Drew Sheridan

Trinity 2A