Sunday 27 September Trinity 16

This Sunday there is a service of Holy Communion at Holy Trinity, Dilton Marsh starting at 9.30am where we will be celebrating harvest.
The service will be led by Rev’d Caroline Husband with a sermon by Graham Stevensen, LLM.

There will also be a Zoom service of Morning Praise at 10am led by Revd Helen Durant Stevensen and reflection by Revd Rebecca Harris.

Join Revd Caroline Husband on Zoom for Harvest Hymns and Pimms at 6pm.
Join us for your favourite harvest hymns and bring your own suitable beverage!

For details of how to join our Zoom services sign up for our e-newsletter.


Collect for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers of your people who call upon you;
and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do,
and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Ezekiel 18: 1 – 4. 25 – end

The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

25 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is unfair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26 When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27 Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28 Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is unfair.’ O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

Psalm 25: 1 – 8

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
    do not let me be put to shame;
    do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
    let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all day long.

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
    for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way

Philippians 2: 1 – 13

 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
 he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Matthew 21: 23 – 32

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ 24 Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” 26 But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ 27 So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28 ‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” 29 He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Reflection

Introduction:

Helen and I met at a church which sponsored six students in Uganda to train for the ministry; we were invited to go out to support them at their graduation and to visit the parishes where they would be serving. However, times were hard for their families, many of which included adopted children whose parents had died from aids. They relied on the crops to feed them but the crops were not growing because the rains were late.

The rains came on the day we arrived and so we were given new names – Helen was called ‘Naffler’ and I was called ‘Waffler’- and, in case you’re wondering – both meant ‘bringer of God’s blessings’.

Many live in fear as we head for a second spike in the Coronavirus pandemic with an effective vaccine still awaited and so many countries in similar crises.

Could each of us be a ‘bringer of God’s blessings in these times?

The Physical Harvest:

At All Saints last week and at Holy Trinity today we are celebrating the abundance of the harvest and the opportunity to share it with those in need in our community and further afield, but our readings are not about physical food but about the harvest of spiritually transformed human lives which honour our loving Father God.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

          Matthew 9:36-38.

The Spiritual Harvest:

So many lost souls searching for meaning and hope in their lives, souls to be saved and brought into the kingdom of God through the Good News of Jesus. The workers are you and me who have believed and are equipped to share that Good News with others, to bring in the spiritual harvest.

We are increasingly aware that our daily lives have never been safe but are instead full of risk, whilst our mortal imperfect bodies have always been vulnerable to disease and decay, accident and violence, injury and death irrespective of age or how ‘good’ we might think we are.

In the UK, in the same period as the 41,000 deaths from Coronavirus, some 80,000 will have died from Cancer and some 35,000 from Dementia and Alzheimer’s

God has not promised that Christians will be immune from the consequences of this fallen world or live to be 70 but we do have God’s assurance that, no matter how long or short our lives here on earth are, we are loved by God and that we will live with him for all eternity.

Death has lost its sting, but do we live as though we believe it?

The Covid19 Precautions continue to concentrate on our physical safety and well-being through maximum isolation and minimum contact in an effort to reduce the risk of catching the virus. There has been some concern for our associated mental health well-being but with little or no concern for our spiritual well-being. Failing to acknowledge the needs of our whole being – body mind and spirit – affecting our daily lives and prospects for the future. The reality of short and long-term life and death issues.

A climate of fear and frustration, where our own voluntary actions and common sense are undone by the flagrant ignoring of precautions by the few, of any age, leading to a climate of blame and increasing restrictions imposed on our daily lives where the aim of ‘the greater good for all’ is seen as an infringement on our own rights of self-determination and exposes our underlying reluctance to accept any control from those in authority.

Yet God’s ways are not our ways. His Laws and Teaching show us how to live our lives to the full in a positive relationship with our loving Father God and in harmony with each other; knowing the consequences if we ignore his good ways and cease to respect and care for each other. The consequence of death and a ‘social distancing’ – a separation from God as lost souls for all eternity – which we can never resolve by our own efforts.

The temptation to go our own way instead of God’s good way is not a generational thing or confined to those with no faith; we are all equally vulnerable and culpable. To ignore his authority and guidance is foolish. We cannot hide behind a mask; God sees our inner thoughts and actions, of which others are unaware, whether good or bad.

Flouting the Covid19 precautions has far reaching consequences. The guilty may be fined but the consequence of them picking up and passing on the virus could be death for an innocent someone else. What value do we put on their life even if we are so careless with our own life? 

We need God’s help and loving discipline to change our selfish ways since we seem unable or unwilling to do so by ourselves.

Our readings enable our fear and despair to be replaced by trust and hope in God.

Psalm 25: 1-8:

The Psalmist pleads with God:

Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;

according to your love, remember me, for you are good Oh Lord.

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

Ezekiel 18: 1-4; 25-32:

God spoke through Ezekiel:

“…every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son – both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

God is just and fair: If a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person commits a sin then they are both liable to the consequence of death, whilst both of them will be forgiven if they repent and turn back to God and his ways and will receive a new heart and a new spirit. Why? God says:

“For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!’

Philippians 2:1-13:

Paul, who comes across as very stern, encourages us to experience the Joy of serving God and others.

If we are to be ‘bringers of God’s blessings’ then how can we do it with a solemn face?

We hope that the regular calls from ‘telephone buddies’ and errands run by practical people have been welcomed by those in isolation, reminding them that they are not forgotten or alone and will have brought a smile to their faces.

Jesus the servant king who triumphed over sin and death through the cross and is exalted to the highest place, as our Lord, our Saviour and our King.

The greatest blessing we can bring to those who live in fear and in the shadow of death, is to introduce them to Jesus who is with us in all our circumstances and who can be trusted to  bring us through to a brighter future of everlasting peace and joy. Good News in dark times!

Graham Stevensen LLM