I hope you are well.
Attached is yesterday’s service plus sermon.
5th Sunday after Trinity 2021 St Andrew’s Milngavie
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Tuesday was the feast of St Peter and St Paul – two most extraordinary apostles, both called by Christ to proclaim the gospel to all the world and to be the rock on which the great gift of Christianity would be founded.
Despite their frailties and short comings Jesus trusts both Paul and Peter to build and establish his church. And he starts with Peter. Peter – impetuous Peter who walks on the water then sinks through lack of faith. Who doesn’t understand the parables. Who argues with Jesus and ends up being called Satan. Who falls asleep when he is supposed to be praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Who denies knowing Jesus. Despite this it is Peter who took Christ’s words seriously “You are rock and on this rock I will build my church,” And he did
And then Paul who was actively persecuting the very first Christians when Christ called him,
“He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:4-6
In the Anglican church Petertide, as this time of the year is known, is traditionally a time for ordinations for priests and deacons. Up and down the nation candidates will be preparing for this great pivotal moment of transformation as new ministries are undertaken and exercised formally in the name of Christ.
As baptised Christians we are all called to serve God and each other in different ways. It can be a daunting task. Like Paul and Peter we may feel flawed, vulnerable and not up to the task.
Our bible readings today all take up the theme of ministry and calling, often in challenging contexts.
In the OT Ezekiel in a vision is called to be a prophet to those exiled in Babylon. As a token of his calling, he is given a scroll on which are written words of “lament and mourning and woe”. Ezekiel is told to eat this scroll, and discovers that it tastes sweet. But the words that Ezekiel is commanded to speak to the exiles is far from sweet. They are words of judgement and condemnation concerning Jerusalem. Overwhelmed by this calling Ezekiel rests for seven days. Then he is given details of what he is to say.
In the epistle Paul is also struggling. He refers to his ongoing “thorn in the flesh” It is not clear what this thorn actually was, the most likely explanation is that it refers to an illness but it could be the guilt he continued to feel from his days as a Christian persecutor. But it is the spiritual relevance of the “thorn” rather than its precise identity that really matters. It taught Paul to rely on the grace of God, rather than his own strength. It also brought home to him that his own weakness was more than compensated for by the strength of God.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness”. God says to Paul as he appeals to him to relieve him of his thorn. 2 Cor 12:9
Today in the gospel Jesus is also challenged as he preaches in the synagogue of his hometown to his own people. For some reason they take offense at him, probably because they knew him in another context as family, a carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph and couldn’t quite get their heads around the idea that this man who they had grown up with was actually the Messiah, the son of God.
So, Jesus leaves them and goes among the villages teaching and healing. He calls his apostles and sends them out in pairs. “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”
Today we his present-day disciples are still challenged to do the same. To be prophets in our own time.
Like Paul and Ezekiel and many before us we may also feel flawed, wearied, too old, not adequate for the task struggling with our own “thorn in our side” thinking we couldn’t possibly be a prophet. But in our own ways we can.
One of the most fundamental elements which is essential to Christian discipleship is prayer. Whether we are in a lockdown, act of worship, a crowded room, alone, on a spiritual high or in despair we can pray and even if words don’t come to us we can simply turn ourselves to God.
In the gospels we are told often that Jesus withdrew to pray. His ministry was very much underpinned by this practise but it is a practise that can brings us a renewed heart, enrich our souls and bring us closer to God.
Think of Simeon and Anna, advanced in age, their prayerful commitment and faith, waiting in the temple to give praise to God at the presentation of Christ, the newborn messiah.
As Paul said to the Ephesians
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18