Making Christ's Love known to All

Morning Prayer for Trinity 1

14 June 2020

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A reading from Exodus, chapter 19, verses 2 – 8a.

They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.  Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: you have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples.  Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.  These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.’
So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him.  The people all answered as one: ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.’

This is the word of the Lord.
All        Thanks be to God.

 

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A reading from Matthew, chapter 9, verse 35 to chapter 10, verse 8.

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.  When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
Then Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.  These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.  You received without payment; give without payment.

This is the word of the Lord.
All         Thanks be to God.

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May the words of my mouth and the thoughts and meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in Your sight, O God our strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

Twelve disciples, Jesus’ closest followers – they were called by Jesus, away from their familiar occupations and pursuits, to learn from Him, to do His work with Him and to witness to what they saw.  It’s all too easy to forget when we read the passage in today’s Gospel that this sending out is happening really very early in their relationship with Jesus.  But they were called, they have sat at Jesus’ feet as He gave the Sermon on the Mount, they have witnessed a small number of miracles – and Jesus knows they are ready.  I rather suspect they might not have been quite so sure, but He had confidence in them – or rather, He had confidence that God could work through them.

And their primary task is not complicated.  They are given a simple message to share with everyone they meet – “The Kingdom of heaven has come near.”  They don’t even have to share this message with anyone particularly scary, not the Gentiles (which in this context really means the Romans), not the Samaritans (the first century Jewish equivalent of bogey men) – just the people who look, sound and behave just like them.  They are even told what it is looks like for the Kingdom of heaven to come near – the sick will be cured, the dead raised, skin diseases will be healed and demons driven out.  And all of this for free – no payment, no conditions, no quid pro quo.

Now none of that should be particularly surprising – it is, after all, pretty much the Matthew’s version of the Gospel message compressed into one little story.  But, even if it’s not surprising, what it IS is very relevant to us today.  Because, for us too, the Kingdom of heaven has come near.  And, like the disciples, we need to know how to recognise it, especially in these challenging times.

I say ‘especially’ for good reason, as I truly believe that one of the blessings of these last few months has been the many, many ways in which we have seen God’s Kingdom breaking through around us.  We will all have our own stories of blessing and grace – an awful lot of those stories will be about the kindness of friends and strangers.  They may be about the selflessness of medical staff of all kinds, from the expert ICU consultants to the nurses retraining for roles they never expected to the cleaning staff who have carried on despite increased risk and inadequate personal protection.  They may be about the person who decided to go shopping for her housebound neighbours or who picked up prescriptions on the way back from a shift at the supermarket for his colleague, shielding at home.  They may be about the teenager who stepped into the road to make sure they gave you 2 metres of space to walk along the pavement.  Whether they know it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not, what they are and who they are in this situation is filled with the love of God, breaking through into our troubled times.

When I look around me at the moment, I’m reminded of something many of us use to help children when they are overwhelmed by a frightening situation over which they have no control.  It’s very simple and extraordinarily effective and it works for adults too!  We simply say to them, “Look for the helpers”.  Look for the people who are making things better, even if only for one person.  Look for the ones who bring hope in the midst of danger and fear.  Or perhaps, look for those who bring the Kingdom of heaven near.

Whatever your week has been like and whatever today holds for you, I pray that you too will see the Kingdom of heaven coming near in the faces and actions of those you love and of complete strangers.

God bless you.

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The response to "Lord, in Your mercy" is

All    hear our prayer.

And the prayers end:

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