26th June 2022 – The Second Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

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22 06 26 The Second Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

Galatians 5.1,13-25

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Luke 9.51-end

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’


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 Joe, a Reader at St Mary's.

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success”

This was the advert that Sir Ernest Shackleton was reputed to have posted to recruit men for his 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Unfortunately, it’s likely that Shackleton posted no such advert and that it’s actually the creation of an advertising copy-writer’s imagination.

But I was reminded of this when I looked at this morning’s Gospel reading from Luke; in terms of recruiting disciples, at first glance Jesus’s comments seem to be more likely to put people off!
Let’s set the stage; Jesus is starting on His journey To Jerusalem where he knows He will be put to death. It seems strange to be talking of such things not too long AFTER Easter, but that’s the way the Lectionary works. He is accompanied by his disciples – his followers – and at the start of our reading they seem rather more ‘Gung ho’ about things than He is. On being rejected by a Samaritan village, his followers suggest that they call down fire from Heaven – like an Old Testament prophet would, but Jesus rebukes them, and they move on to another village, where they have a better reception.

And this leads us in to the part of the reading that I want to focus on today.

I’ll be honest; this reading always concerned me when I was a younger man, as to me it seemed that Jesus was being quite harsh to those He encounters. Listen to the way he responds to the men he meets:

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
“Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
“No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

These responses seem sharp to us, almost brutal. And they seem to very much be reflecting upon the character of the questioners, as if questioning the willingness of the men to make the sacrifices that are expected.

And this is where I had problems with this reading when I was younger. The first response I can totally understand – it’s going to be a hard life on the road, moving from place to place. Jesus is putting some facts about a hard life ahead to the men he meets, a responsible leader warning those he leads about what may befall them. These men will become outcasts in their society – nomads, rootless, with all the associated issues and problems that might come from that situation, quite possibly including physical maltreatment and death.

But the last two – these seem to be very harsh. The sacrifices that will be made in their lives ahead have been made clear, but the men are not even allowed home to bury their dead or say goodbye to their family?
At this point it’s useful to remember that Jesus would have been speaking at a number of levels; he teaches in parables, he is speaking to people who have a cultural context very different to our own, and he is also speaking to his new and existing disciples to warn them about what’s going to happen after he has left them. He is also speaking with an enormous sense of urgency; He knows that He is soon to die, and His disciples aren’t necessarily ready for that.

If we start with the last statement:

“No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

This would be quite meaningful to people from an agrarian background. If you’re ploughing a field with draft animals – oxen, horses, mules, whatever – then you look ahead and keep your eyes on something in the mid-distance, and guide the animals in a straight line towards that distant point and that will give you a nice, straight furrow. If you look behind you to admire your handywork so far, or get distracted, then you will end up with a wobbly furrow that goes all over the place.

The Kingdom of God will come in to being through focused action, looking forward. If the disciples second guess matters, get scared, look back to their previous lives, they will lose the focus they need, the furrow of their lives will not be straight, and the Kingdom will not be served.

So – here Jesus is saying that once committed to being a disciple, ‘Keep your eyes on the prize, or you’ll be no use to the Kingdom as you will not be committed.’

Oddly enough, between the Crucifixion and Pentecost, Jesus’s disciples did tend to wander back to their own lives, and were hauled back on to the straight road ahead by the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Which leaves us with that rather cruel sounding second statement:

“Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

At first glance this seems incredibly harsh, even with the tightness of time. But this is where some knowledge of Jewish culture and customs comes in useful. The process of mourning death of a parent – particularly a father – was a bit more drawn out than we might expect. The body is buried in the tomb rather quickly, and then the family go home. They will stay in their home for 7 days, and if they leave home in that time, it’s expected that they will go to the tomb to carry on mourning – like Jesus’s disciples did after His death.

Then, after 7 days, most aspects of normal life resumed, as for any death. HOWEVER, children would mourn their parent’s death for a full year, and at the end of that time they would return to the tomb and perform a second burial, in which the bones of the deceased are gathered up, placed in a container, and stored in the ‘Ossuary’ section of the tomb where they stay for good.

As the questioner is not at the tomb, but is listening to Jesus speak, it’s almost certain that the primary burial has been conducted already and the 7 day period of ‘house mourning’ is complete.

It’s therefore most likely that this person was still mourning his father, and the burial he refers to is the secondary burial of bones. Something that could be several months away yet, and time is tight. As a good Jew, Jesus would be aware of the importance of Mosaic Law – honouring your father and mother – but in this instance ‘Honouring the father’ refers to a higher calling.

It's still harsh, but less so than we may immediately think.

The calling to build the Kingdom of God is the highest calling that will be expected of His disciples – both then and now. Jesus is not calling on us to neglect our responsibilities and families, but He is saying that there will be sacrifices to make and challenges to cope with, that may be significant.

Billy Graham once said:

“If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

This is what we’re are being asked by today’s reading.
Are we yet in a position to find ourselves guilty as charged?

The Prayers
Prepared by Barbara.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

O God, the creator and preserver of all, we pray for people in every kind of need; make your ways known on
earth, your saving health among all nations ...

We pray for all those affected by natural disasters everywhere, thinking today particularly of the people in
Afghanistan as they deal with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake.

We pray also for all those affected by war, thinking especially of the residents of our twin city of Donetsk,
caught up in the horror of the war in Ukraine.

We pray for all those severely affected by the cost of living crisis here in the UK, facing hard choices about
what necessities they can afford. We think of those on strike or about to go on strike, many of whom have
not had a decent pay rise in years.

Please help us to keep all these people in our hearts and to be generous in helping them when we can.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

We pray for your Church throughout the world; guide and govern us by your good Spirit, that all who
profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit,
in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life ...

We pray for the success of this year’s Walkley Festival and thank you for the energy and enthusiasm of all
those putting on events and all those participating. We pray especially for those events taking place here at
St. Mary’s. Please help us to play our part in making Walkley a thriving community.

Further afield, we pray for all residents of the USA, facing the actual deprivation of certain rights that have
been in place for half a century and the potential deprivation of other rights such as access to contraception
or education. We pray that such deprivations are not done in your name and ask that you bring strength
and determination to those fighting back against such deprivations.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

We commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are any ways afflicted or distressed, in mind, body or
estate; comfort and relieve them in their need, give them patience in their sufferings, and bring good out of
their troubles ...

As we enter yet another wave of covid, we think especially of those known to us amongst our own
congregation and community who are afflicted by covid at this time – we ask you to bring them relief from
their suffering.

In moments of peace and contemplation, we name to you all those known to us who are suffering. Please
care for them and for all those of whose suffering we are unaware.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

We remember those who have gone before us in the peace of Christ, and we give you praise for all your
faithful ones, with whom we rejoice in the communion of saints ...

We remember those who have lost their lives either directly because of covid or because their diagnosis and
treatment was delayed owing to the pressure covid put on the NHS. We ask that you welcome them to your
kingdom in heaven and bring comfort to their families and friends.

We name to you in our hearts all those known to us both near and far, asking that you bring your comfort
and healing to their families and friends at this time of grief.
All this we ask for Jesus Christ’s sake.

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