‘Waiting on the Lord’ – 17th July 2022 – Fifth Sunday after Trinity

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22 07 17 The Fifth Sunday after Trinity Eucharist.docx

The Readings


Colossians 1.15-28

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Luke 10.38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

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 Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes


My wife Cathy spent much of her childhood In Iran where her parents were missionaries. She was friends with the daughter of the Bishop of Iran. Her name was Guli Dehqani and she is now the Bishop of Chelmsford. At her diocesan synod last month, Bishop Guli questioned some of the language that is popular in the Church of England at the moment. Words like vision and strategy and growth. Many of these words come from business. Bishop Guli warned that this language risks missing the many blessings that are to be found in the small, the vulnerable and the marginal. Places where Jesus was often to be found. Bishop Guli warned that our current orthodoxies risk putting too much emphasis on our human powers – that if only we try hard enough and pull together well enough and all follow the same programme… we can ensure the future survival of the Church.
I have to confess that I do sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that if only I could try harder, do more, then the church would flourish more and God’s kingdom would come closer. And I’m afraid that the writings of St Paul are not always helpful. For all his talk of grace, he was a man of action, a doer, a servant, a sufferer. And he sometimes leaves me feeling rather inadequate.
But then I read today’s Gospel and breathe a small sigh of relief. The story of Martha and Mary. Martha the home maker. The cook. The provider of hospitality. The doer. And Mary, the disciple, the dreamer, the woman of faith. Who just wanted to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.
I’m afraid I tend to be like Martha rather a lot of the time. Keeping busy. Feeling restless. I come from a long line of Marthas. But I know in my heart that the Marys have the better part. They know themselves to be justified by grace, not by what they do. They are prepared to sit and be. To listen. To give time to others. To receive.
We all need to cultivate our inner Marys and particularly perhaps at the moment when the weather is so hot and we really shouldn’t be rushing around doing things. Perhaps there is a seasonal quality to the Mary and Marth thing and this time of year is a time for us to be like Mary. A time for holidays and relaxation. A time for reflection when we can recharge our batteries.
The Marthas of this world are to be commended but they are not always easy to live with. Sometimes they find themselves running on barely repressed fury. You can hear that fury in Martha’s words to Jesus. They are often stressed. Anxious. Distracted. And they can be hard to be around. And a church that is anxious is not all that attractive either. We live in anxious times and people come to church in search of something different. They come in search of grace, beauty, transcendence and hope.
Bishop Guli is not the only bishop to encourage others to look beyond the language of targets and strategy. Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, spoke at our Diocesan Conference at Swanwick last week. He was very open about not having a plan, a strategy for the church in the northern province. I heard him again at General Synod. My wife Cathy was elected to the Synod last year. She is the Diocesan Environment Officer and she was making her maiden speech, encouraging the synod to reduce its carbon footprint. Our busyness as human beings is often detrimental to our planet. For the sake of creation we need to slow down, travel less and live more simply.
At the opening of the Synod, Archbishop Stephen gave the presidential address. He didn’t talk about Mary specifically but he did call on us to be more like her. To be. To spend time with the Lord. To meditate and pray. He said this:
Writing to the saintly Bishop Edward King in 1861, his predecessor as Principal of Cuddesdon, H.H. Swinny wrote this on the importance of meditation –

‘We all try to do too much and don’t give enough time to earnest quiet thought… Somehow even my prayer, and Divine Service within God’s congregation, lose much of their reality without this deliberate bringing of the Unseen into sight, and basking in the light and warmth of it for a little season. We shall accomplish more by attempting less.’

And Edward King himself persistently maintained that our first priority must be to ‘secure our own individual reunion with God through Christ, nurtured in those times apart, in solitude and silence.’

‘Oh, blessed are the poor in spirit’, says Jesus, ‘theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5.3)

At the heart of what it means for us to be a Christ centred Church is this renewal of prayer and spirituality, the disciplines of contemplation, the pursuit of holiness, the recognition that we don’t have all the answers, a poverty of Spirit which is a richness in our need of God’s mercy and redemption, the ‘deliberate bringing of the Unseen into sight’, that even a so-called vision and strategy is simply a call - a call to God, a call from God, to centre our lives in Christ and then a few questions that we think are worth addressing and around which we will order our priorities.

So how can we grow younger and more diverse?

And how can we create new pathways of belonging for those who don’t yet know Christ, revitalising the parishes and chaplaincies of our Church and expanding our vision to create new communities of faith and see more people come to faith in Christ?

And how can we learn to be disciples of Jesus ourselves?

Archbishop Stephen’ answer was this. He quoted Psalm 27, verse 4. Gladden your hearts with the sight of the Most Fair. Be constantly renewed and resourced by the beauty of Christ, the beauty of worship, the beauty of scripture. One thing I ask of the Lord. This I seek. To live – to find my life - in the house of the Lord… to behold God’s fair beauty. Amen.


The Prayers

Prepared by Oli G

Lord Jesus, we pray for our world. We pray for the planet as the UK faces the hottest temperatures on record. Help us to act with the urgency and immediacy that the climate crisis demands. We pray you be with all of us as we keep each other safe and cool, and be with the emergency services as they manage the repercussions.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, we pray for the conflict being waged in our world, across our continent, and within our communities. Help us to be peacemakers and to find solutions to conflict. Help us to bring reconciliation where there is division to enable your kingdom of justice, equity and peace to come closer
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, as our country’s leadership enters a time of uncertainty, help those responsible for deciding on our future prime minister use wisdom to select a leader with integrity, honesty and who wants the best for all members of our society.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, as we approach the school summer holidays, we pray that families are able to make the most of the time they have together, finding times and places to unwind and relax into a slower pace of life. We pray that with the increased costs of living, families are able to find cheap and free activities to enjoy during this time
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, as we enter the season of weddings and marriage, help us to celebrate love in all its forms and affirm all forms of relationships, supporting those who face prejudices as a result of their sexual preferences.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, we ask today that you be with all those who are sick or unwell in mind, body or spirit. We pray too for all those whom we love but see no longer who have joined you in the kingdom of heaven. We pray especially for Kath’s granddaughter Lucy, who would have celebrated her 19th birthday on Monday.
We enter a time of silence to hold those close to us in prayer.
Merciful Father
Accept these prayers
For the sake of your son
Our Saviour
Jesus Christ