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 12

GOSPEL READING
for TRINITY 6 – Sunday 24th July 2022
Luke chapter 11, verses 1 to 13
Jesus’ teaching on prayer

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
   Your kingdom come.
   Give us each day our daily bread.
   And forgive us our sins,
     for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
   And do not bring us to the time of trial.’

And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

REFLECTION

One thing is for sure, Jesus spent much time in prayer and He was a great teacher.   So it is no surprise that His disciples should ask Jesus to teach them how to pray.   It was the cue for Jesus to give His disciples – and us – a pattern for prayer, known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.

This prayer suggests that there are three things that should be included.   First of all our prayer should praise God, our heavenly Father.   ‘Hallowed be thy name’ we say.    Secondly our prayer should just ask God to provide us with the things we need for the day.   ‘Give us today our daily bread’ we pray.   Then, finally, our prayer should ask for God’s forgiveness for the times when we fall short of what he expects of us.   ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’

After more than 2000 years, we still say the prayer Jesus taught His disciples.   There may be slight variations in translation but what we are saying is basically the same.   The danger is that we recite the prayer without really thinking about it.   We say it parrot-fashion or as a kind of magical formula without a thought of what we are really saying.

We are wise to sometimes meditate upon the Prayer.   Consider how, in our lives, we ‘hallow God’s name’.   Reflect upon God’s wonderful provision of all that is necessary for our ‘daily bread’.   Remember that just as we are ‘forgiven’ people so we also ought to be forgiving towards others.

Prayer is the basic diet of every Christian and The Lord’s Prayer is the basic pattern for our lives.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,
you have taught us, through your Son, how to pray.
Give us the will to be fervent in prayer
so that we may always hallow your name.
Help us never to forget your bountiful goodness, and to be thankful.
May we always acknowledge that we have been forgiven by you
so that we ourselves must be forgiving of others.
This we ask for your glory
and through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

PROPER 13

GOSPEL READING
for TRINITY 7 – Sunday 31st July 2022
Luke chapter 12 verses 13 to 21
The parable of the rich fool

Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’

REFLECTION

In our Bible reading today we hear of a man going to Jesus and asking that his brother should be told to divide his father’s estate with him.   Jesus perceived that in this request there was an element of greed so He told him the parable of the rich fool.

The rich fool was hell-bent on making more and more money, so he decided to expand by building bigger barns to hold more crops that would make him so rich that he could sit back and enjoy life.

All this was very commendable but he had left God out of the equation.   He had assumed he had many years still to live but, as it turned out, he would die that night and all his striving would be for nothing.   He could no longer sit back and enjoy his prosperity.

The parable warns about storing up just for ourselves when we ought to be considering how rich we are in the eyes of God.

Later in Luke’s Gospel (chapter 19, verse 25) Jesus said that it was much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.   He doesn’t claim it to be impossible (the ‘eye of a needle’ referred to a very narrow entrance in a city wall) but ‘much harder.’   Riches can be a source of anxiety and misplaced allegiance.   Many people who have inherited fortunes say that it has not brought them happiness.

The Beatitudes, in Matthew chapter five, turn upside down many of the things which are often viewed as ‘blessings.’   Instead Jesus focusses the thoughts of His followers upon the desire to do what God really wants of them.   Only when we recognise that will we be really blessed in God’s sight.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father
may we be content
with the blessings which you so generously give us
and help us to be on guard
against selfishness and greed.
Amen.

PROPER 14

GOSPEL READING
for TRINITY 8 – Sunday 7th August 2022
Luke chapter 12, verses 32 to 40
Where your treasure is

 Jesus said: ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.  Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.  If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

REFLECTION

In our reading Jesus said to His disciples, “Where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

It has been said that you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their cheque books and Bank Accounts.   You can tell what a person really loves by what he spends most of his money on and how they spend their time.

If we say that we love God but spend every penny and every moment on ourselves, it suggests that we consider ourselves more important.   If we say that we love God but never give Him any of our time and effort perhaps we only really love Him a little.

Then again Jesus said that we should love our neighbour as ourselves.   We must recognise all that God has given us and be prepared to share it.   If we keep all these things to ourselves then we are not showing much concern and love for our neighbours.

Someone once said that the Cross represents an upright letter ‘I’ with a horizontal ‘-‘  across it.   The ‘bar’ cancels out the ‘I’ when we take up our cross and follow Christ.

Just as Jesus gave Himself for others so all who claim to be His disciples are expected to give of themselves for others.

We can observe where our true love lies by the things we do.   We can observe what a person is really like by the way they spend their time and money.   Today Jesus challenges each one of us to consider the things we do and the treasure that is close to us when He says, “Where your treasure is, there our heart will be also.”

PRAYER

Dear Jesus
help us to make sure that our heart is in the right place.
Help us to show our love for you and for one another
in the way we spend our time and our money.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen.

PROPER 15

GOSPEL READING
for TRINITY 9 – Sunday 14th August 2022
Luke chapter 12 verses 49 to 56
Jesus the cause of division

Jesus said:  “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens.  And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens.  You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

REFLECTION

In our everyday life, we are often divided into different groups.   We may be divided by size, by age, by the colour of our hair, or by our likes and dislikes.   We don’t all think the same way or like the same things.

In our reading Jesus said that He was going to be the cause of division among the people.    Although He wanted everyone to follow His teachings He knew it wasn’t going to be that way.   There would be some who would follow, and others who would not.

Jesus says in our reading that He came and knew He was going to cause people to disagree about who He was and what He was doing.   But Jesus also knew He had a destiny to fulfil for His Father God.    He might even cause families to argue with each other about their different ideas of who He was.

When someone disagrees with us about something, we can calmly state what we believe, but we never have to turn it into an argument or fight.   We just need to listen to them, ask them to listen to us, and then either come to an agreement or agree to disagree.   And that doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends with them either!   Friends don’t always have to have the same opinion on things to stay friends.

The best way to convince anyone of our position is to demonstrate what we believe by the way we live our lives.   Our job is to live the Christian life to the best of our ability through love.   That always means trying to do the right thing in the right way at the right time.   God can help us do that if we ask Him.

PRAYER

Father God
help us to be good examples to our friends
and always do what You would have us to do.
Thank You for sending Jesus
as our best example of how to live in love.
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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