St. Mary's Church

Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

26 Sep 2021 • General news

Esther 7. 1-6, 9-10; 9. 20-22

1The king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 2On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, ‘What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.’ 3Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have won your favour, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me – that is my petition – and the lives of my people – that is my request. 4For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.’ 5Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, who presumed to do this?’ 6Esther said, ‘A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!’ Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen.

9Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, ‘Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.’ And the king said, ‘Hang him on that.’ 10So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

20Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, 22as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

James 5. 13-end

13Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

19My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Mark 9. 38-end

38John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ 39But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

42‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

49‘For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’

Sermon for 26th September 2021

May the words of my lips and the meditations of all our hearts, be ever acceptable in your sight, O LORD, our strength and redeemer.

Amen.

There are weeks when I love the fact that we follow a lectionary, rather than preach on any passage as we see fit, and weeks when I struggle. I have to admit, that when I first read the passage from St Mark’s Gospel,my first thought was “Shall I preach on the letter of James again?”

As Malcolm said in church last Sunday, these passages, from St Mark, which follow the Transfiguration are tough reading. Today’s piece, follows immediately on from last Sunday’s extract, and I wonder whether, by now, Jesus has decided that he needs to really take the time to talk about the hard stuff. He probably knows that some of his fringe followers will decide his message is too hard, and will leave, and I am certain he knew that he would be betrayed by one of his closest disciples. But after the glory and the affirmation of the Transfiguration, Jesus knows that he has to face his future - and that future is a sham court in Jerusalem and a very public and painful death.

Jesus’ difficult future has implications for his followers though - and as we know from the Gospel accounts especially from Saint Luke and Saint John, Immediately following Jesus’ death, and even the resurrection, the disciples are petrified, bereaved and very scared by what their future might hold too. It perhaps these sessions of preaching though the message was hard, would have sustained them as they tried to accept and understand everything that happened during Holy Week. We also should remember how many of these men Jesus is teaching also ended up losing their own lives for following Jesus.

The first bit of teaching we hear from Jesus begins with a question about someone who had been observed driving out demons in Jesus’ name. The disciples had never met the man, so they told him to stop, but Jesus explains, that even if people do not know him personally, if they want to claim the power of Christ, to do good in the world, then they are welcome.

I was talking to a neighbour earlier in the week, who spends a lot of his time caring for his elderly Mother. He was lamenting that his siblings who go to a church and constantly tell him how Christian they are, don’t have the time or the will to help care for his Mum’s needs, and how he struggles with that. He knows Stephen and I go to St Mary’s and asked about our attitude to him, for not going to church. His question reminded me of Malcolm’s message about servant hood last week, and about Jesus’ scorn of the Pharisees and other leaders of the faith community, who seemed to appreciate the privileges of their position, much more than caring for those who they taught and preached at.

I don’t know about you, but I have met several people in my life who are gentle and kind, loving and caring, but who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, but they way the take care of others and support people, certainly means that by their way of life they are often supporting those who are most vulnerable in our society. Those are, I believe, the sorts of people that Jesus would recognise today as doing the work of the Kingdom, without, having a real relationship with God through Jesus. Jesus clearly tells his disciples, and therefore us too, that those are the types of people we can and should support in their endeavours.

Now let’s look at the next few verse in our readings, where Jesus is apparently telling people that if parts of their “body” cause them to sin, then they should dispose of it. Like a lot of Jesus’ teaching, this feels almost like a riddle, where you have to think about what Jesus is really saying rather than take it on face value. His message is, I believe important, even today in the 21st century - if there is something in our life- a relationship; a hobby; something or someone who has a tendency to lead us astray, to encourage us to do things that afterwards we feel guilty for doing and perhaps feel bad about at the time, then the time is now to let those things go.

Sadly we have probably all been part of a relationship with someone that felt toxic, that we knew that perhaps we didn’t like the person we became when spending time with them, or maybe we felt belittled or not appreciated. That rather than being built up, we found ourselves ground down and struggling with our self-confidence or self-esteem. This is the type of thing I believe that Jesus is encouraging us to really confront and think about.

Jesus’ last comment in our reading is this “have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.” Think of our faith as the salt, if we lose our faith in God, we lose the ability to make such an impact in the world, in encouraging people into the Kingdom of God. Just as salt seasons our food and brings out flavour, by our life and our witness we can bring out the good in those around us, and by our example encourage them to look closer at our lives and to begin to think about getting to know Jesus in a personal way.

I was having a discussion on Monday evening with some friends about having “life in abundance”. We were chatting about the fact that especially when we don’t feel well, or as well as we have previously. If our mental health has declined or our sight or mobility, if life feels like a struggle, how can we live life in Jesus abundantly. Our conclusion was that by living life to the full as it is at this point - not craving those previous days when our health might be better, or our finances stronger, or when we didn’t have an emotional decision to make- we can truly show the world what it is to live in relationship with God and hopefully rather than becoming bitter about what we might have lost, we can rejoice in the day we have to live today.

So I end with a small part of Psalm 118

“This is the day that the LORD has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it,”

Amen.

Intercessions 26th September 2021

Holy God, your law is perfect and your statutes are trustworthy and so we pray to you knowing that you will hear our prayers and answer them in your way.

We pray for all people who seek to follow your way in their lives. Let your church speak your word of truth with confidence and in unity so that those who are searching and listening will be able to see and hear clearly your message of love and peace. We pray for Archbishops Justin and Stephen, for our Bishops, Christopher and John and for all who are leaders in your church, that they may guide us with wisdom and encouragement.

(Short Silence)

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Creator God, we recognise our part in the tensions and injustices of the world: heal the resentment between people, and intervene in the world’s conflicts. Help us to walk humbly with you at our side when we come to the crossroads and have to choose which way to go lead us to the path of justice and righteousness whilst steering us away from the road that leads to selfishness and sin. We pray especially for the people of Afghanistan and for those in the new government there.

(Short Silence)

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the love we share with our families and our friends. We give thanks for those we have been able to meet in person again after the lockdowns and pray for those we have yet to see. Especially, we pray for those whose families live abroad and who have been separated for so many months.

(Short Silence)

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Mighty God we pray for those who you have called to the study and practice of medicine, healing and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them as they follow Jesus’ example, that through their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified. We now name before you those who we know and love who need healing in their lives.

We particularly pray for Audrey Curtis at this time.

(Short Silence)

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Loving God, you sent to earth your son Jesus Christ so that in your power and love we might also have the gift of eternal life; bless those whom we love that have departed this life with the gifts of your all-encompassing love and life eternal.

We pray especially for the families of those whose funerals have been held at St Mary’s this week, and for those who anniversaries fall at this time.

(Short Silence)

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Lord we ask you to lead us into the coming week, Help us to believe that you are close by us, keep us from making mistakes and help us never to disappoint you. When we face hard decisions or difficult work, when we enjoy ourselves and have fun with others may we know that you share all these different times with us.

Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen