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SERMON FOR THIS WEEK​
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Sunday 14th July 2024
Trinity 7

But I know that Christ will wade into these waters,

will stand with you in this storm,

will say peace to you in the waves,

peace to you in the winds,

peace to you in every moment that finds you still within the storm.

(Jan Richardson)

Sermon for Sunday 14th July 2024,

Trinity 7

By Rev Petra Elsmore

 

New Testament Readings

Ephesians 1:3-14

 

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

 

Gospel Reading

Mark 6:14-29

14  King Herod heard of it, for Jesus name had become known. Some were saying, John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.

 15 But others said, It is Elijah. And others said, It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.

 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.

17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philips wife, because Herod had married her.

 18 For John had been telling Herod, It is not lawful for you to have your brothers wife.

 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not,

 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.

 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.

 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.

 23 And he solemnly swore to her, Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.

 24 She went out and said to her mother, What should I ask for? She replied, The head of John the baptizer.

 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.

 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring Johns head. He went and beheaded him in the prison,

 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother.

 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. 

 

Sermon

 

Are you a person whose glass is half full or half empty? Are you a person who looks for silver lining in difficult situation? Do you feel compelled to always look on the bright side of life?

 

I must admit, that most of the time I am a glass half full kind of person, and that I tend to take a long time before I declare a situation hopeless. I refuse to be defeated even when life gets really tough, but even I find it hard at times to make sense of senseless situations.

 

The situation in today’s Gospel reading, is one of such moments. Totally senseless scenario in which it is hard to find a silver lining. What purpose is there in John the Baptist’s death? That someone can show power? That they can do whatever they choose to do? That indeed seems senseless. 

 

We read: that Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. Yet Herod was not strong enough to resist and refuse Salome’s request. A senseless death of a holy man. 

 

And so, if we cannot make a sense of a story, that speaks of a senseless death of an innocent man, a story of a great injustice, a story which depicts a situation simply unfair, what do we do? 

 

I am reminded of the story of Job, faced with unbearable suffering, surrounded by friends who try to make him feel better about it all, taking time to realise that sometimes there is no silver lining in what we experience.

 

I keep in mind the victims of the latest attack on Gaza, at least 90 people killed and 289 injured by strike on camp for displaced people in Khan Younis, senseless conflict, innocent victims of continuing violence, these victims have already been displaced and suffered beyond endurance, how much more they could take?

 

I keep all this in mind knowing that there are no words which could explain away what is taking place. 

 

For some people life is tough and whatever is happening, we cannot simply say, this is part of God’s plan, there are no reasons or explanations for senseless suffering and injustice. They take place and some bear more of it than others, we do live in an unjust world.

 

What is our response? When someone is finding life tough, to listen and acknowledge that this is so is better than trying to explain away how things might get better one day. 

 

It takes time to share in grief and pain.

 

The disciples have quietly taken John’s body and buried him.

In Matthew’s gospel we read that Jesus went away, withdrew for a time, to process his own grief and pain, then he continued his ministry by feeding the multitudes. 

 

Solidarity, prayer and action, continue to do the things that can relief pain and suffering and confront injustice. We may not be able to make sense of the senseless suffering we see in the world, or indeed in the lives of those who are close to us. But we do make difference in our little ways.

 

Perhaps here is me again trying to bring hope, see the silver lining in difficult situation or simply stubbornness to be defeated. I do belief that we do need to go on, in the light of injustice and hardship, perhaps offer ourselves, whatever gift we have, offer compassion where compassion is needed, offer practical help where help can make a difference.

 

I want to close with a poem, a blessing by Jan Richardson, which offers words of comfort and to me speak of how one can hold on to home in situations where one struggles to find hope.

 

Poem

 

Blessing in the Storm – 

 

Jan Richardson,

 

I cannot claim
to still the storm
that has seized you,
cannot calm
the waves that wash
through your souls,
that break against
your fierce and
aching hearts.

But I know that Christ

will wade

into these waters,

will stand with you

in this storm,

will say peace to you

in the waves,

peace to you

in the winds,

peace to you

in every moment

that finds you still

within the storm.

Collect

 

Lord of all power and might, 

the author and giver of all good things: 

graft in our hearts the love of your name,

increase in us true religion, 

nourish us with all goodness,

and of your great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen

FROM PREVIOUS WEEKS

June 2024

Sunday 7th July 

TRINITY 6

By David Heffer

Sunday 7th July

TRINITY 6

By Peter Evans

Sunday 2nd June

TRINITY 1

By David Heffer

Sunday23rd June

TRINITY 4

ByRev Petra Elsmore

Sunday 9th June

TRINITY 2

By Rev Janet Bayly

Sunday 16th June

TRINITY 3

By David Bayly

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