‘The Lens of Goodness’ – 6th June 2021 – 1st Sunday after Trinity

The Order of Service

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21 06 06 1st Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

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21 06 06 1st Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Livestreaming link

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The Readings

Genesis 3.8-15

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent,
‘Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.’


Mark 3.20-35

and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’


The Sermon
by Revd Cate Thompson


It’s an inevitability of faith that we will encounter doubt – in fact, I would argue that doubt plays a necessary role in the cycle of belief and unbelief that draws us deeper into understanding.


But we aren’t alone in our questioning – Jesus’ claims were (and still are!) radical. A carpenter from Nazareth, a wandering Galilean is starting a movement, drawing crowds to see him heal the sick, perform miracles, cast out demons… and hear him teach with authority about the will and Kingdom of God. He is gathering Disciples and declaring that they now share this same authority.


Who is this man to make such claims?


How did he go from craftsman to rabbi?


Why should we listen to him – the carpenter – over the religious leaders with all their study and education?


Even his family – who would have heard him speak with wisdom from his early years (enough to astonish the teachers in the temple in Jerusalem) – cannot grasp this sudden claim to authority, this sudden move to action – a change dramatic enough that people are saying that he’s having what we’d now call some sort of episode.


Scribes have come all the way from Jerusalem to investigate and conclude that he must be possessed. But Jesus responds calmly and logically: what purpose would there be for the power of a demon to cast out demons?


In the face of this doubt, Jesus’ response is as to say: look at my actions - are they the product of love, of peace, of justice, of joy? Do they bear the fruits of the Spirit? If you doubt my origins, then trust the goodness of my actions. Doubt me, but do not doubt the Spirit.

Then if you trust in the Spirit, you can trust me.


This is the line of thought that I find helps me most when I find myself doubting. When I find it hard to believe, it is my trust in the goodness of the faith that carries me through until I can believe again.


It is the goodness of Jesus that says to me, ‘even if he isn’t the Son of God, even if there isn’t a God - this way of living, of treating people, of acting is good.’

And this lens of goodness also helps me interpret the faith – it is the question I ask when I encounter something I don’t understand or find difficult to believe: is it good? Because if it is good, if it demonstrates the fruits of the Spirit, then I can trust that it is consistent with the God of love and goodness. But if the answer to ‘but is it good?’ is no, then just maybe it is something to be challenged.


In doing this we, like Paul, are looking beyond the now and towards the divine – beyond the temporary corruptions of human stumbling to the eternal truths of God: of love, of peace, of justice, and of joy. These are the values to which we aspire, and which speak of the Spirit in our lives.


And it is this lens of interpretation that causes me to be passionate about justice and active about inclusion. I look at the systematic racism in our world, in our church, see that it is not good, and know this is not of God. I look at the growing divide between rich and poor, see that it is not good, and know this is not of God. I look at the stigmatisation of LGBTQIA+ people, see that it is not good, and know this is not of God. I look at the destruction of our environment, see that it is not good, and know this is not of God. …and I could go on.


But it doesn’t stop at recognising what is good and what is not – it can’t.


As Jesus says look at my actions to see that I am good, so our actions must reflect that goodness. We must seek to transform the unjust structures, to respond to human need through loving service, to safeguard creation – as through these actions we proclaim the Gospel, the Good News of God’s redeeming love.


Let us pray,


Help us, Good Lord, to trust in your goodness:

when we doubt,

when we praise,

when we hope.

In our questioning, may we be drawn ever deeper into knowledge and love of you,

that we may understand your goodness and embrace your eternal truths

of love, justice, peace, and joy.

May this be the lens through which we see the world

and interpret our faith.

And may our actions reflect your goodness

as we seek to transform this world to good.

We ask all this for the sake of your redeeming love.


The Prayers
Prepared by Joe.

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. As the G7 governments
prepare to gather together, we pray that they will make
decisions that are just, compassionate and forward-thinking.
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. As the country
prepares for a further relaxation of Covid restrictions later this
month, we pray that levels of the illness can be kept under
control. We pray for those employed in hospitality and other
business areas that have been seriously affected in the last year.
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
We also pray for those involved in delivering the vaccination
programme, 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, 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.