4th July 2021 – 5th Sunday after Trinity

The Readings

Ezekiel 2.1-5

He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.


Mark 6.1-13

He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.


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 Rev'd Shan Rush, St. Marks Church

If I were to ask you what is significant about July 4th, I expect that most of you would say it is Independence Day. That is true, but for me, July 4th is significant for another reason. 11 years ago today was the day I was ordained Deacon at Sheffield Cathedral, and to me marks the day I was sent out from here, St Mary’s Walkley to serve my curacy at St Mark’s. Having left, I did not imagine that I would be back, and I hope I don’t experience the rejection we are told Jesus was met with in the first 6 verses of the gospel reading!

On this, the first occasion I have both presided and preached at St Mary’s since I left, I’m going to focus on the mission of the twelve, and the themes of vocation and ministry.

It strikes me that all too often the focus of a sending church is put on the person being sent, whereas in reality it is not simply about those being ordained, it is about the whole people of God recognising God's call and affirming it, whether that call be theirs or someone else’s.

When we are introduced to the disciples by Mark, they are not painted in a very positive way - lacking in understanding and needing explanation, described by Jesus as being fearful and lacking faith, questioning Jesus so it makes you wonder whether they would have fit into a person spec for the job, met the criteria at interview and why Jesus would send them out to preach repentance, heal the sick and cast out demons. There’s a phrase, ‘God does not necessarily choose the qualified, but qualifies the chosen’ and it was the kind of encouragement I needed at the stage I felt called.

I’m not sure that many of you know the part members of this congregation played in helping me to recognise my calling. Recognition was key, because without it, I’d have carried on doing what I was doing. Each of us needs to be in tune with the Holy Spirit in order to recognise when God’s hand has been placed upon a certain individual to perform a certain task, whatever that task may be.

Let me tell you some of my story, how I find myself where I am today.

Although I didn’t recognise it, to me my faith journey began at conception. My name Shan, was given to me because my mum had heard it on a holiday in Wales and liked it. The English equivalent is Jane, the female version of John, and when I think of this I’m reminded of John the Baptist, whose calling began before his conception in the womb of Elizabeth. The angel Gabriel foretold his birth to his father, the old priest, Zechariah, at which point he was given the name of John, a name that means “the graciousness of GOD,” because he would announce GOD’s graciousness in the coming of the Messiah – Jesus.

Although not regular churchgoers, my parents chose to have me baptised in the Methodist Chapel in the village my dad had been born and brought up in when I was 3 months old.

As a family, we only attended church intermittently, usually when visiting relatives at Christmas and Easter. Sunday school and attendance with Brownies and Guides were the only other occasions until I joined a house church as a teenager. On leaving home, church attendance stopped until I purchased my home here in Walkley. At that point , a friend invited me to attend church with her and her husband. Little did we know where that simple invite would lead. Initially I was confirmed, then after a few years, the question of my role within church kept cropping up in conversation. I was happy reading the lesson, leading intercessions and assisting with administration of the chalice, but something kept prompting me that there was more for me to do. I’d started to explore things I could do as a lay person like reader training and pastoral care. Somehow, none of these felt right for me and I abandoned them, plodding steadily on doing the things I’d always done and felt safe doing. God doesn’t give up easily and prodded me through several different people from different contexts asking the same question - have you ever thought about becoming a priest? I hadn’t, and initially didn’t want to. My hesitancy was based on a number of things. Firstly, I already had a vocation as a nurse and was working at the Children’s Hospital in a job I loved and found fulfilling, so why would God call me to something different? Secondly, I didn’t feel I had the skills or knowledge needed to be a Priest, and thirdly and probably more importantly, I was afraid of the unknown.

“If you don't get out of the boat, you’ll never walk on water.” These words of challenge were spoken to me by a member of this congregation Edna, who had been baptised in her 80’s and who was not afraid to ask difficult questions as I continued to grapple with the idea that God might be calling me to ordained ministry, to become a priest, a calling that would mean me facing the discernment process which might lead to rejection, and if I were accepted, would mean undertaking training before leaving St Mary’s and moving on to a new place.

Could I remain within the safety of my current job or did I need to accept this invitation to step into the unknown like the disciples in today’s gospel.

I was referred to a vocations advisor. Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs, a strategy that gave them support, companionship on the journey. St Mary’s gave me not only one companion, but a group of people to travel alongside me on my journey of discernment.

Jesus instructed the disciples to take nothing with them on their journey – no food, no extra clothing nor money. This meant that His disciples would have to depend on the generosity of others to meet their needs. I was gifted generous people who shared time, wisdom and hospitality.

The disciples left and began preaching and working miracles. These men were not learned. They were simple fishermen and workers. Yet, Jesus empowered them to give to heal others and to give them spiritual food. In the same way, you reached out and touched my life with your love, care and prayers, giving the gift of your interest, time and support, both in the journey of discernment and through training, and some of you continue to journey alongside me to this day, 11 years later, as I continue to discern what I’m called to do in life. Each of us called not only to reach out to those who gather in the building, but to reach out to those who are not seeking and have never encountered Jesus.

We live in a world not dissimilar to Jesus time, a world where some are hungry for faith and others are completely disinterested in learning about Jesus. Despite this, we are still called to share the good news of Gods love for us, to heal the sick and to reach out to those in need and you don’t have to be a priest to do this.

The disciples were not Priests. For each one of us, his call is present but may take shape very differently. I believe Lay ministers, each one of you, are the primary hands and feet of Christ in the world, in the workplace, the family, amongst friends, a belief borne out of my own experience.

All of us are called to identify the work that God is doing in our lives, and to build up God's people for works of service in the church and wider world. We are part of a diocese which seeks to encourage and affirm all ages, backgrounds and pathways as people seek to find out what God is calling them to. This is becoming clearer as clergy numbers are reduced and more of the ministry within the parish falls to laity who are told they are being liberated for the whole mission of God. The new model of oversight ministry is designed to mobilise the whole people of God. It’s a time of transition and it’s hard for everyone as we adapt to new ways of working, especially with the added complication of the pandemic. As things start to open up, there will be new needs within our Mission Area and opportunities to serve God in our communities. May we journey together, supporting, nurturing and encouraging one another as we discover who we are, work out how we want to live and try to accomplish the task of sharing what we learn through gathering, praying and eating together with the world outside these doors. Jesus deliberately sends us out with the minimum of resources so we can meet others from a position of need, vulnerability and humility, not from a position of power armed with multiple resources. We are called to recognise Gods presence in the ordinary encounters of our day, and to notice the ways in which we are nourished and given life, and to respond by offering love and hope in this broken and needy world.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe P

We pray for God’s Church throughout the world. We pray for our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, for Bishop Pete and Bishop Sophie, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary’s and our sister Churches. We pray that we, and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world, continue to be aware of your presence in our lives.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all those in authority, and those who have influence in the world, that their power and voices be used compassionately for the good of all. We pray for peace in those parts of the world affected by violence, and pray for all those whose lives have been affected by extreme weather caused by climate change.

As both the United States and Canada remember their foundings, we pray that those countries can look back at their past relationships with indigenous peoples and find a just way forward, and pray that all modern countries can look at their history in an open and honest fashion.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends. We pray for all those in the city involved in education and training at the end of a difficult year, and pray that the vaccines continue to successfully keep the rate of serious Covid related illness under control.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or spirit. We pray that God’s power and spirit will fill them and bring them the healing and peace that belong to Christ’s kingdom.
We also pray for those involved in delivering the vaccination programme throughout the world, and those clinicians and scientists who have made vaccination possible. We pray that steps are taken to ensure that the poor of the world are not forgotten at this time.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those 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. We pray for those who have died without the comfort of their family around them, that they were comforted by the presence of the Lord.
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 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