SUNDAY REFLECTIONS

        

In common with churches around the country and beyond Norton sub Hamdon held a special Service of Celebration to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Below is the JUBILEE SERMON preached by The Reverend Richard Terrell at that Service.

READING:   Luke chapter 22, verses 24 to 30

A dispute also arose among the disciples as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.   But Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors.   But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.   For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?   Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.   You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

SERMON   –   Who’s the greatest?

            A question arose, in our reading from Luke’s Gospel, as to who is the GREATEST.

            The former world heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali, was known for his bragging,    “I am the greatest,” he would declare.

            The story is told that just before take-off on an airline flight, the stewardess reminded Ali to fasten his seatbelt.   “Superman don’t need no seatbelt,” Ali told her.   The stewardess calmly replied, “Superman don’t need no airplane, either.”   Ali fastened his seatbelt!

            No one would mistake Muhammad Ali’s bragging as a Christian virtue.   Humility and selflessness are the mark of a believer in Jesus Christ.   So in our reading it seems incredible that the disciples would get into a silly debate over which of them was the greatest.

            The setting was the Last Supper on the night before Jesus would go to the cross and Jesus had just announced that one of the Twelve would betray Him.   There was a discussion as to who would do such a thing and this led to some of the disciples feeling ‘greater’ than others.

            It wasn’t the first time the twelve had got into this sort of silly debate.   They had argued about ‘greatness’ as they walked along the road with Jesus – Mark chapter 9 (vs. 33f).    Then, in the next chapter, we hear the mother of James and John asking that they should be granted positions of greatness when they sat with Jesus in His kingdom.

            Jesus taught, on these occasions,  that the greatest should become the servant and the one who wished to be first should be the slave of all, adding, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”   It is a lesson all who actively serve Christ must continually apply.

            Being a servant of Christ is more than just occasionally coming to Church, teaching in the Sunday School or doing some charitable or Christian task.   Being a servant is a mind-set, where each day we make ourselves available to Christ and ask Him to use us in His service in whatever ways He chooses.

            It may mean speaking a word about the Saviour to someone who needs Him.   It may mean offering cheerful help to someone in need.   It may mean listening to a person who needs sympathy or understanding.   It will certainly mean listening to God’s Word and obeying the ‘instruction’ by the way we live our lives.   Whatever the task, our daily attitude should be, “Lord, here I am.   Use me as Your servant.”

            Today we are celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second – one of the longest serving monarchs in history, and someone who quite clearly regarded herself as ‘a servant.’

            On her 21st birthday, when she was known as Princess Elizabeth, she said this:   “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

            At her Coronation when the Queen was crowned in 1953 at the tender age of 27, the new sovereign shared some very inspiring words as part of her Coronation Speech.   She made it very clear from the start the kind of Monarch she would be.   She said:  “I am sure that this, my Coronation, is not the symbol of a power and a splendour that are gone but a declaration of our hopes for the future, and for the years I may, by God’s Grace and Mercy, be given to reign and serve you as your Queen.”

            The Queen promoted the idea of service when she was 21 and that was re-enforced at her Coronation in 1953.

            Over her reign we have seen many leaders come and go.   Some have led in a kind and gentle way while others have led in a more forceful and alarming way.   We have seen great strides in adventure and technology.   The world has greatly changed over the years.

            It can easily be forgotten that our Queen has paved the way for many aspects of society that we hold dear.   She has influenced almost every facet of our lives, from unity in times of crisis, to our fashion, attitudes, and industry.   She is a symbol of endurance, grace, and dignity in an ever-changing world.   As most people start to slow down in later life, the 96 year old Queen Elizabeth the Second has no plans to do so, as her pledge to serve our country is renewed once more.

            A memory that remains vividly etched in my mind was the day when Her Majesty came to Wells Cathedral in April 1982 to distribute the Maundy Money.   I had the privilege of escorting one of the recipients – a blind and disabled Church Organist.

            At the end of the Service we were all lined up in the south aisle of the Cathedral.    Anna and I with David in his wheelchair and his wife, together with all the other recipients and their escorts.   As Her Majesty walked by we respectfully bowed our heads.   But to my surprise she bowed to us!   Here was a sovereign not lauding it over her subjects but who was prepared to wash their feet.

            Recently I heard about a church that had a large sign over its door which read:   Servants’ Entrance.   It was the only way in or out of the building.   Everyone had to pass that way.

            This morning I was very tempted to put that sign above the entrance to our church to remind us how everyone who professes to be a Christian should be.   We gather today in a place for servants.   We gather today to remind ourselves of a Higher Authority.   We gather today to remember that those who are servants are the greatest in God’s Kingdom.

            Today we have remembered someone who described herself as a servant.   We have been marking seventy years of her service to God and country with this Service of Celebration.   We can be sure that Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second walks through that door.   But what about you and I?

            In 1548 Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish Priest who founded the Society of Jesus – The Jesuits – and was later venerated as a saint, offered a Prayer which I still find relevant today.   I am going to end by offering that prayer in the hope that you will be able to add your ‘Amen’ at the end.

Let us pray

Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve.   To give and not to count the cost.   To fight and not to heed the wounds.   To labour and not to ask for any reward save that of knowing that we do your will.

Amen

PROPER 18

GOSPEL READING
for TRINITY 12 – Sunday 4th September 2022
Luke chapter 14, verses 25 to 33
The cost of discipleship

Now large crowds were travelling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

REFLECTION

Life is full of decisions.   Will we do this thing or that?   What are the implications in terms of time, expense and commitment?   Do we really want to do it?   Some decisions might be trivial but others may be important and life-changing.

One of the most important decisions is whether we will follow Jesus or not.    Some people have that decision made for them when, as a baby, they get baptised.   But people who subsequently take their baptism promises upon themselves and decide to follow Jesus find it somewhat more demanding.

In today’s reading Jesus warned that it isn’t always easy to follow Him.   Potential followers should sit down and count the cost.   It may mean giving up friends who are making bad choices.   It will mean putting Jesus first – even before father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even life itself.

Jesus talked about the ‘cross’ we have to carry, saying that anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Him cannot be a true disciple.

Jesus carried His cross to Calvary.   It was on that cross that Jesus gave His life so that you and I could have everlasting life.   When we choose to carry our cross, it means that we are willing to give up everything to follow Jesus.   It is a choice we have to make.

PRAYER

Lord Jesus
we thank you for being willing to carry your cross to Calvary.
Help us to make the right choices in our life
and to carry whatever cross is laid upon us
so that your name is glorified
by the things we say and do,
the life we lead and the company we keep.
This we ask for your name’s sake..
Amen.

PROPER 19

GOSPEL READING
for TRINITY 13 – Sunday 11th September 2022
Luke chapter 15, verses 1 to 10
The lost sheep and the lost coin

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.

 ‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

REFLECTION

Have you ever lost something that was really important to you?   If you have then I guess you probably searched all over the place and turned the house upside down until you found it.

In our reading today, Jesus told two stories about people who have lost something very important to them.   There was a man who had lost a sheep and a woman losing a silver coin.   In both cases the ‘loser’ went out of their way to recover what they had lost.

Jesus told these stories to illustrate the kind of love that God has for us.    We are God’s children, but when sometimes we get lost God doesn’t give up on us.   He searches for us and won’t stop until we are found.   In fact, the Bible tells us that God sent his son, Jesus, to seek and save the lost.

Just as the people in the story rejoiced when they found what was lost, so Jesus tells us that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents and is no longer ‘lost’ to Him.

We sometimes act in such a way that God might be excused if he gave up on us.   But I’m glad that he doesn’t.   It’s comforting to know that when we wander away he longs for our return, to again be able to hold us in his hands and surround us with his arms.

PRAYER

Father God
we are your children
but sometimes we stray from you and your ways.
We seek your forgiveness and long to be reunited with you.
Thank you for never giving up on us,
always seeking our return
and welcoming us with outstretched hands and open arms.
Amen.

PROPER 20

GOSPEL READING
for TRINITY 14 – Sunday 18th September 2022
Luke chapter 16, verses 1 to 13
The shrewd manager

Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.” Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?” He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.” And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’

REFLECTION

Every day we are faced with decisions which test our honesty.   It may be whether we accept what we know is the incorrect change, or it might involve a ten pound note we find on the floor.   The amount of money is not important, it is a question of doing what is right.

In today’s reading Jesus told a parable about a rich man who accused his manager of wasting his money.   He called him in and told to give an account of the way he had been managing his money.

Sure enough, the man had been taking some of the money for himself and cheating his employer.   So he devised a scheme that would win him plenty of friends when he no longer had a job.

When Jesus told this story He said that “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

If you and I make sure that we are honest in the small things, then we can be sure that we will be honest in the big things.   If people know that they can trust us in small things, they will know that they can trust us in the big things too.

PRAYER

Dear Father
help us to remember what Jesus taught about honesty
and help us to be honest in every situation big or small.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen.

PROPER 21

GOSPEL READING
for TRINITY 15 – Sunday 25th September 2022
Luke chapter 16, verse 19 to 31
The rich man and Lazarus

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” ’

REFLECTION

Did you know that God sometimes sounds a “wake up” alarm in our lives?   He speaks to our heart and says, “It is time to wake up and follow me.”   Some people hit the snooze button and say, “Not now Lord, call me later.”    Some people hit that “snooze button” so many times that they get to where they don’t even hear God’s voice.   When they finally wake up, they find out that it is too late.

That is what happened in our Bible reading today about a rich man who ignored a beggar.   The two could not have been more different.   The rich man had absolutely everything he might ever want, while Lazarus was grovelling in the gutter.   The rich man, who was very much aware of Lazarus, could have offered some help but didn’t.

The story then records the afterlife where the roles of the rich man and Lazarus are reversed.   Lazarus died and went to heaven but the rich man went to hell where he looked up and saw Lazarus in heaven with Abraham.    In vain he pleaded for Lazarus to help him and in vain asked that Lazarus might be sent to warn his brothers so that they might not go to hell.   The rich man finally ‘woke up’, but it was too late.

If we ignore the ‘wake up’ calls God sends we shall end up like the rich man.   We must listen to God’s voice and follow him before it is too late.

PRAYER

Dear Father,
we have heard the story of the rich man and Lazarus today.
May we never ignore the needs of others
but always do whatever we are able to help those in need.
Amen

MARTIN’S MESSAGE

Martin the Monkey sometimes accompanies The Reverend Richard and helps to re-enforce the Gospel message. He usually attends on special occasions in the Church Year and shares his thoughts with you.

Christmas themed scene in hand crafted woodcut style

Humans can give some weird and wonderful gifts.   The best gift anyone can give me is quite simply a tasty banana.

Remember those guys at Christmas who, the story goes, gave a baby gold, frankincense and myrrh?   They were called ‘Wise Men’ and I guess they were to notice a bright star which they followed to lead them to the Child.   But ‘Wise’?   Did they not see the ‘unsuitable for children’ label?   Surely they could have found something more suitable to give!

Perhaps those gifts were ‘something for the bottom draw’ or did the Wise Men know something about Jesus others did not know?

I’m sure that if you and I were thinking of a gift for a baby, gold, frankincense and myrrh would be right at the bottom of the list.   But what would you have given?

The poet Christina Rossetti pondered the question in a carol we sang:-
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
f I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb;
if I were a wise man I would do my part,
yet what I can I give Him:  give my heart.

Guess that’s it!   That child in a manger, who became king of all, to be worshipped and adored, died for you and for me and for our salvation.   The simplest yet most valuable gift we can give Him is our heart – to follow Him and love Him all the days of our life.

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