25th June 2023 10.30am – Third Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

Jeremiah 20.7-13

O Lord, you have enticed me,
and I was enticed;
you have overpowered me,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughing-stock all day long;
everyone mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’
For the word of the Lord has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, ‘I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name’,
then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
For I hear many whispering:
‘Terror is all around!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All my close friends
are watching for me to stumble.
‘Perhaps he can be enticed,
and we can prevail against him,
and take our revenge on him.’
But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble,
and they will not prevail.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonour
will never be forgotten.
O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous,
you see the heart and the mind;
let me see your retribution upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.

Sing to the Lord;
praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
from the hands of evildoers.

Matthew 10.24-39

‘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.

Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By David, Reader at St Mary's.

Our Gospel passage this morning is one of the most difficult in the Gospels. It can challenge our understanding of Jesus and his ministry. Alongside the assurance of faithfulness from God we hear challenging words promising conflict and bodily harm. It’s not an easy read, it’s messy. Passages like these call us to a deep, thoughtful reading and interpretation of the bible. They call us to recognise that faith can oftentimes be messy and difficult rather than straightforward.

Some context might be helpful in our understanding. This passage comes at the end of chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel. In this chapter Jesus has been commissioning the twelve apostles to “go and proclaim the good news”. He has told them “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, to give without payment”. Following on from our passage today Jesus talks about the rewards of discipleship.

So sandwiched in the middle we have a passage that focuses on the cost of discipleship. That if we follow Jesus then there is the potential for conflict and suffering. Conflict with the powers and rulers of this world, keen to maintain their place. But also potentially conflict with those closest to us. Our opening verses tell us to expect this. “A disciple is not above teacher”. If we follow Jesus, try to imitate him, and bring about his kingdom, then those who benefit from the world as it is, will treat us as they did Jesus. It’s the part of discipleship we don’t tend to talk about, particularly in relatively safe countries where we can practice our faith openly.

We can fall into the trap of thinking that God will protect us from any kind of harm. That the more closely we follow Jesus the more blest our life will be, the less pain and suffering will happen to us. Which, when we stop and reflect on it, is a bit odd. Jesus lived a difficult life on the road, challenging authority and was ridiculed, mocked, denounced, persecuted. If we are called to live a life that imitates Jesus, then we open ourselves up to all of these. As disciples, we don’t get an easier life than our teacher, Jesus.

But, and this is really important, suffering pain, ridicule and persecution by the those in authority doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us.

Our passage then offers reassurance. God follows and loves each small sparrow and counts all the hairs of our head. We are individually as a small bird, when compared with the universe. Seemingly insignificant, without power, wealth, or status. Yet to God all are valued, and acknowledged. Each of us is of more value to him than a sparrow.

We need to be a bit careful here. Reassurance doesn’t magically make the world a better place. But it can strengthen us to do the right thing. Knowing that God will go with us into the dark places, through whatever stumbling blocks the self-interested powers of this world put in our way, can hearten us. God being with us doesn’t mean we won’t fall, we just won’t fall beyond God’s love.

The final verses of our Gospel are some of the most difficult of Jesus’ teachings. We associate Jesus with bringing in a reign of peace. At Christmas we hear the angels message of “peace on earth.” At funeral services we hear the words “my peace I give you”. Earlier in Matthews Gospel Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers”, and later on “All who take the sword will perish by the sword”.

Yet here Jesus states he will actively cause conflict and came to bring a sword? Was he having a bad day?

There is a form of peace, discussed in Micah chapter 7, which hides injustice and exploitation. The peace of the oppressed people, who can’t challenge a settled authority and an unjust society. This is a peace which Jesus comes to shatter.

The sword he brings is the sword of the spirit. A sword which cuts through pretence and bluster to the heart. Like a scalpel it separates the light from the darkness, the good from the bad. It’s metaphorical, Jesus comes to refine us and remove that which causes people to stumble and keeps them in chains.

None of this is easy, faith is messy. We are at odds with society around us. Sometimes the church, or our fellow Christians. We disagree about what faithfulness to God means. Sometimes we confuse imitating Jesus with being Jesus.

We’re not always good at expressing difficult emotions within the church, or in some cultures. Our reading from Jeremiah can help. It’s a poem of lament about his vocation and calling. What we can call his journey of discipleship. It’s a type of speech and writing which allows him to express negative emotions to God in a safe and structured way. It’s something worth thinking about as a tool in todays world, where it’s hard to find spaces to express these negative emotions.

Jeremiah has had enough. As a prophet he’s called to hold a mirror up to society. Essentially speaking out God’s critical judgement on the people generally and those in power specifically. Unsurprisingly it’s not a popular calling! He is fed up with being given a message to challenge authority and of being ridiculed, mocked, denounced, persecuted.

Sound familiar?

People are waiting for him to stumble. He can’t run away like Jonah. When he doesn’t speak out he feels “something like a burning fire” inside him. He has no choice, he knows how difficult it is to speak truth to power and to work for the transformation of our society.

On these two tasks of disciples, I’m going to leave you with something to ponder. There have been two stories about the Church of England in news in the last week or so. One on the dismissal of the Independent Safeguarding Board. The other on the Church Commissioners decision to no longer invest in energy companies using fossil fuels. This comes after years spent trying to engage with those companies in the hope of them being more climate friendly.

I wonder what Jeremiah would make of these?

These final words are from a hymn. It was written by an American woman called Annie Johnson Flint, who died in 1932. I first encountered them on a prayer card many years ago. They could be considered a platitude, but they cut to the heart of what we have considered here this morning.


God has not promised sun without rain,

Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God has promised strength for the day,

Rest for the labour, light for the way,

Grace for the trials, help from above,

Unfailing kindness, undying love.


The Prayers
Prepared by Catherine


We pray for the church...
thinking this week of all those preparing for ordination as deacons or priests. We ask for blessing on their ministries. We remember too all those people worldwide whose profession and practice of faith brings them into conflict, derision and danger. May they continued to be assured of the love and presence of God. Following yesterday’s diocesan Parish Safeguarding Officers’ Commissioning Day, we pray for all who undertake this ministry at a local and national level, and pray that all may work well together to ensure that our churches truly reflect the love of God.

Jesus, Lord of your Church,
in your mercy hear us.


We pray for the world…
thinking of all who have lost their lives at sea in the past fortnight, and for their grieving families and friends. We pray for refugees, that they might find safety and welcome. We pray for areas of war and conflict, continuing to remember Sudan, Ukraine and Russia. We pray for areas of drought and famine, of flood and earthquake, of places affected by the climate crisis. And we pray for peacemakers and all who are striving to protect the world’s environment for all creation.

Jesus, Lord of your Church,
in your mercy hear us.

We pray for our community…
thinking of this year’s Walkley festival, its organisers and events. We give thanks for the opportunities to celebrate with art and craft, music and food, games and laughter, and being able to meet with one another. We pray for our schools, voluntary organisations and local businesses.

Jesus, Lord of your Church,
in your mercy hear us.


We pray for those who are suffering...
thinking of those who are ill, lonely, anxious, or struggling in other ways. In a few moments’ silence, we name them before God…

Jesus, Lord of your Church,
in your mercy hear us.


We remember all who have died, giving thanks for their lives. We pray for those who mourn their loss asking God for comfort and strength. We think of those known to us…

Jesus, Lord of your Church,
in your mercy hear us.


Merciful Father
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.



Common Worship: Service and Prayers for the Church of England, and Times and Seasons, material from which is used here is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 and 2010