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Sunday 26th July 2020- Trinity 7

posted 24 Jul 2020, 05:39 by Church Office   [ updated 26 Jul 2020, 08:52 by CHS Info ]











You can download the order of service here
, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here

Sunday 26th July 2020

Seventh Sunday after Trinity

The parables are piling up this week: mustard and yeast, wheat and weeds, good fish, bad fish.  It is interesting that the things that Jesus first compares to the kingdom of God are things that were strictly regulated and often prohibited under Jewish law: mustard seed and leaven (and of course women).  Dangerous, wild things that, left to their own devices, proliferate and grow out of control.  The following parables of the wheat and weeds and good fish bad fish are instructive: don’t try to divide them, don’t go judging what is good and what is bad.  That is NOT our task.  Our task is to encourage and embrace the growth that the kingdom brings.  It is also interesting that in our first reading Solomon asks God for the wisdom to discern between good and evil – this is the rarest of gifts, a divine quality that humans are not known to possess in abundance.

Pram Service (8am) In Pram Service this week we are exploring yeast & dough & how God wants us to get our hands sticky. Story, song, prayers and activities to make our littlest members feel welcome. Head over to the Children and Youth tab to see this week’s service.

Sunday School (9:30am) It is the end of term, so today is the last Sunday School before we break up for summer! We will be asking for help to take us over the tricky patches, especially those we want to run away from or take the easier path rather than the path that is right. We will be drawing hands, left and right, then cutting them out and covering them with all the helping hands we can think of. Talking to friends, asking parents, smiling at others, holding hands with sad people and listening to friends without interrupting are just a few examples. You will need to bring paper, scissors and some colouring pens/pencils. It has been lovely seeing your faces each week and all your wonderful work, have a lovely summer and we will see you all in September! Join us for the last Sunday school of the academic year here: https://zoom.us/j/578055716, you’ll need the password which can be found in our newsletter. To subscribe please go to our homepage to subscribe.

 

Readings

 1 Kings 3:5-12

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed, I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

 

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

 

Sermon

It starts with a simple question: what is the kingdom of God like?

Answer: it’s like mustard, or maybe yeast, no wait, it’s like treasure, or perhaps good fish and bad fish, old things and new things.

Which is way too much information. So let’s take a breath and begin at the beginning:

It starts with seeds and yeast. 

When I was a kid I went to a Christian summer camp named Mustard Seeds.  Simple enough concept: tiny, seemingly insignificant things with great potential for growth; and more than this, tiny, seemingly insignificant things with great potential for good.

Really?

How about tiny, seemingly insignificant things with great potential for disruption and disorder?

Well, that was certainly true of me and the other kids at camp but it is also true of the mustard seed and the yeast to which we were compared.

Both were considered dangerous and in need of strict control.  The mustard seed in the parable grows into a massive tree which provides a home for the birds of the air which sounds good but its really not if what you are trying to do is grow food crops because you will end up with fields full of out of control weeds housing a heap of birds who will eat anything else that you are trying to grow.  Which is why it was forbidden to plant mustard seeds.

Yeast, or leaven as it was known, is of course also hard to control.  If anyone watched Unorthodox on Netflix you would have seen the large orthodox Jewish family gathering in a kitchen completely covered in tin foil.  The foil is to prevent the accidental formation of leaven which happens all the time when motes of food or flour mix with moisture and wild yeast spores in the air and begin to ferment.  It’s like naturally occurring sourdough starter which, used correctly, can make bread rise and, used incorrectly, can rot and make you sick.

These are not straightforward parables about growth.  Something much more subversive is going on.

Which brings us to the fishermen trawling for fish both good and bad and the steward bringing out chattels, old and new.  The fish and the things are not what the kingdom is compared to: rather it is compared to the people who are so undiscerning.

These parables are in stark contrast to King Solomon who in our first reading is offered any gift he chooses and chooses discernment: the wisdom to know the difference between good and evil. 

What a wise king right? In the light of these parables I am not so sure. 

Solomon desires this gift so that he could rule a populous nation.  And it is certainly a good gift for this job: if you can divide people into good and evil they are much more easily controlled.  The majority of people want to be good.  If you show them what is bad they will unite against the bad and blame them for many of the ills in their society. 

Solomon, the book of Chronicles tells us, was gifted at dividing his people.  First he divided the foreigners from the Israelites and enslaved them.  When he ran out of foreign slaves Solomon began dividing the Israelites, those who were poor and could not pay their taxes were also enslaved.

Deciding who needs to be separated out is still a tricky thing: In Poland, it’s the LGBT community, in American, undocumented migrants and angry black men, in Afghanistan educated women, in the UK benefit scroungers and welfare tourists.

Knowledge of good and evil is maybe not such a gift.

Which is why in the story of the very beginning, God told Adam and Eve, NOT to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

But of course they did and the rest of the story is history: first came shame, then came duplicity, outright lying, cheating and shirking responsibility.  All resulting from trying to divide the good from the bad in themselves, in each other, in the natural world.

Jesus is the most unusual in his refusal to divide others into good and bad, who makes no distinction between pure and impure, good and bad, sane and mad, sick and healthy, stranger and neighbour; but instead opens his arms ever wider to include sex workers, mentally ill, bleeding women, lepers, criminals, collaborators and an ever-increasing number of people labelled “bad”.

The aim of his ministry was not to heal the “bad” to make it “good” but to question why the person was excluded in the first place.

The message of Adam and Eve, of king Solomon, of these parables seems to be that human beings are supremely unsuited to discerning good and evil.

The kingdom of God is radically inclusive, if we are to build the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven the one thing we should NOT do is start deciding who’s in and who’s out.

What should we do then?

We should be like the man who sowed mustard seed in his field or the woman who hid the leaven in the flour, the net that brought in all the fish, good and bad, the steward who brings out all the things old and new.

It begins by noticing who is excluded and taking action to include them.

What does this look like?

It looks like Paula’s friend who noticed when attending a sixth form open evening, a group of black boys who couldn’t get in because the school stipulated that you needed to attend with a parent, and so she signed in five of them as hers. It looks like the school children in Lambeth who lobbied the council to accept Syrian refugee families, it looks like the churches working to get the homeless guests at Robes into housing and jobs. 

Most importantly it looks like seeing the world as if there were no division between the good and the bad, the sacred and the profane, the human and the divine and trusting the God who sees no division either.

Prayers

Seed-planting, fish-netting, bread-baking, pearl-hunting God,
you shape us into living parables.
Pray with your Spirit in us
so that we may understand our experiences
as healing metaphors,
and become creative and abundant stewards
of the environment you entrusted to our love. Amen.

 

Prayers of Intercession

Lord, grant us the stillness and calm of your Spirit that we might concentrate on these few minutes of prayer together.

We bring before you the deep divisions in the world, in the Far East and elsewhere.  We ask you to give guidance to the leaders of all nations towards finding a way out of deadlock to progress, from division to harmony and from selfishness to cooperation.  Lord, there are so many unnoticed sorrows in the world.  We know that they are not unnoticed to you and we pray that you will reach out and help those who ask.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

 

We pray for doctors, nurses and medical staff who are caring for the sick and all those working in care homes.  Lord, keep them safe and support them, and give them the resilience to carry on.  Guide all those throughout the world who are searching for a vaccine and cure for Coronavirus.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

 

Lord, we beseech you to give wisdom and sound judgment to all those in positions of power and authority in our country and we ask for your blessing on our archbishop, bishops, and on our clergy and all the wonderful team who work here at Holy Spirit in your name.  We give thanks for the success of the current campaign to raise money for the means to broadcast our services and also that we can now return to church to pray and soon to get together again to worship you.  

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

 

We pray for our local community in Clapham, our families, our friends, particularly those we might have neglected recently, our neighbours, the elderly and those suffering hardship, anxiety and fear in the current situation.  We bring before you the sick and entrust them to your tender care, thinking particularly of Jane, Heidi and Albert Bell, Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris,  Jane Roberts, Damien Harte, Jo Harvey, Joshua Clark, Ann Kodz, Coe Dudding and Donald Edge. In a moment of silence let us think of any others close to us or known to us about whom we are concerned ………..  Lord, comfort them and may they be restored to health and strength.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

 

We remember before you loved ones and friends who have died and we think of all those who are mourning a recent bereavement.  May they find your strength and support in their loneliness. We rejoice in the faithful witness of your saints in every age, praying that we may share with them in your eternal kingdom.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

 

Please pardon us for our failings, Lord: for falling short in the fulfilment of  our responsibilities, for the hasty words we utter, for our thoughtless actions, for the unloving thoughts that cross our minds day by day, for failing to listen with sympathy when people talk about their problems, for not putting you first in our lives.  We humbly ask for your forgiveness for these and many other weaknesses.  May we find the calmness of your spirit to overcome the turmoil of life, so that we might have more time for others and more time for you, to consider what you want of us in order to further your kingdom here on earth.

Merciful Father –

Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

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Church Office,
24 Jul 2020, 05:39
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Church Office,
25 Jul 2020, 03:25