2nd July 2023 10.30am – Fourth Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

Jeremiah 28.5-9

Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; and the prophet Jeremiah said, ‘Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfil the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.’

Matthew 10.40-end

‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

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 Catherine B, a Reader at St. Mary's

Let’s go back in time and space to the Kingdom of Judah about 6 centuries before Christ.  Babylon is the big superpower and threat, and Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, has begun raiding Jerusalem, taking King Jehoiachin (aka Jeconiah) into exile, along with the sacred temple vessels.  Zedekiah has been installed as a puppet king by Nebuchadnezzar, but has decided to rebel.  This puts Jerusalem and her inhabitants in a very dangerous position.
Under the LORD’s instructions, Jeremiah has been hanging around Zedekiah’s court and the temple wearing a yoke of straps and bars.  He has been urging everyone not to resist Nebuchadnezzar, but rather to submit to the yoke of Babylon in order to preserve Jerusalem and save their skins.  They should not to listen to anyone who says otherwise – they are speaking falsely.
But the people don’t like that message.  Meanwhile other prophets are trying to keep everyone’s spirits up.  One is Hananiah.  The LORD has apparently told him that he’s broken the yoke of the king of Babylon and within 2 years all will be restored: the exiles will return, King Jeconiah  restored to the throne, the temple vessels reinstated.  It’s a much more palatable message than Jeremiah’s.
Jeremiah is scathing and mocks Hananiah – Yes indeed may this come about!  But when in history have prophets ever foreseen peace and prosperity?  Never! They always foresee war, famine and pestilence.  However, when peace and prosperity come about, we’ll know that this prophet has spoken the truth, that the LORD has sent this prophet.
If we’d read on, we’d hear how Hananiah responds to this mockery, by breaking Jeremiah’s yoke.  “The LORD says: This is how I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon within 2 years”.
And then we’d have heard The LORD’s promise of an even greater yoke, and of Hananiah’s fate.
Jeremiah’s message was not well received.  Speaking truth to power makes you unpopular.  It seems no one listened and he had no friends.  I’m sure we can all think of similar examples in our own recent political and world history.
But hold on a minute.  Jeremiah may not have been popular, but someone must have been listening.  Someone noted the words that he spoke, remembered the very visual acts he performed and wrote them down forming the book bearing his name.  And others preserved the book, made copies, handed it down through the generations.  Jeremiah might not have changed the minds of the authorities at the time, but later on, when the exiled people of Judah were pondering their lot, they remembered Jeremiah’s words and began some serious thinking about what had gone wrong with their relationship with God.  Someone, somewhere had (eventually) welcomed the words of the prophet.
Jeremiah hated being a prophet.  But for 40 years he remained a faithful disciple, faithfully proclaiming God’s message.
As we’ve explored Matthew Chapter 10 recently, we’ve looked at the role of Jesus’ disciples. They are to share the good news of God’s Kingdom amongst the people of Israel.  They should speak, heal and cast out demons.  They should rely solely on the goodwill and hospitality of those they meet for their basic needs.
This mission will be costly.  There will be conflict with their families and friends.  They will be mocked and mistreated.  They will become unpopular.
Today’s short reading rounds the chapter off.  We now hear that anyone who welcomes a follower of Jesus, will welcome Jesus himself, and indeed welcome the God who sent him.  There will be people who will provide for their basic needs – if even just a cup of water.  There will be people who will understand them to be righteous, and welcome them because of that.  There will be others who understand them to be prophets, and welcome them because of that.
And whoever welcomes the disciples, from the basic cup of water to the listening and understanding welcomes Jesus himself.  And whoever welcomes Jesus will welcome God, even if they don’t know it.
So this gives encouragement for today’s disciples too.  Each of us has our own role to play in bringing about God’s kingdom on Earth today.  There is good news to share, but there are hard truths to point out too.  Sometimes the going will be tough, as it was for Jeremiah, and it will seem as though no one is listening.  But along the way there will still be little responses of recognition, kindness from strangers, a little cup of water perhaps.  And maybe later, someone will realise that in meeting a disciple of Jesus, they have, in some way, met Jesus himself.  And in encountering Jesus, they have encountered the one who sent him.
Thanks be to God.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe

We pray for the Church of Christ, for Bishop Pete and Bishop Sophie, our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary’s, St John’s and St Mark’s.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Jeremiah reminded the priests and the people “The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.” Today it sometimes seems that such fears are once again common.  We pray for peace in the world and in the hearts and minds of men.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We pray for the people of Ukraine and hope for a peaceful resolution to that conflict. We pray for families on both sides of the conflict who have seen their members go to war.  We pray for communities in France affected by civil unrest, and for the soul, family and friends of Nahel M.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We pray for those in political office here in the UK, that they may govern wisely and with the interests of the whole country in mind
We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends.  As the Walkley Festival comes to an end, we offer thanks for the time and skills given by all to our community for the Festival events.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or spirit, and those who find life especially difficult at this time. We pray that you strengthen them and bring them the healing and peace that belong to your kingdom.  In a few moments of silence, we bring to mind those we know who need your healing presence.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We pray for those currently close to death, and those accompanying them on this final part of their Earthly journey.  We pray for those who have died, recently and in the past, and those who mourn.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Finally, Lord, we silently bring before you those special to us, and also those issues and concerns that we have in our own lives.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Rejoicing in the communion of Mary, Mark, John and of all the Saints, let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life, to God.
Merciful Father: 
accept these prayers 
for the sake of your Son, 
our Saviour, Jesus Christ. 
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000