Church of England Diocese of Birmingham St. Matthew with St. Chad, Smethwick

7th Sunday after Trinity

18 Jul 2021, midnight

Readings: Jeremiah 23v1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2v11-end; Mark 6v30-34&53-end.

Let us pray: God be in our heads and in our understanding. God be in our eyes and in our looking. God be in our mouths and in our speaking. God be in our hearts and in our thinking. God be at our end and at our departing. Sarum Primer (1527)

A word from Lucy: The writings of the prophet Jeremiah seem to me to be, not only a warning to the religious leaders of the prophet’s day - but also a warning to religious leaders down the ages, for they warn what God will do when religious leaders fail. Looking back over the last 65 years of my life and to what has happened in Church numbers, I am very concerned that God may decide that current religious leaders have failed Him by not looking after His people and causing them to be driven away or scattered from the Church. This is a truly horrible idea but one that opened my eyes to the promise embedded within this prophecy – for God promises to call up new kinds of religious leaders for His people. A people who can do things God’s way for a new generation, a people who will take the message from the faithful remnant out to the world, a people who will look after all of God’s people: good and bad alike, religious and secular, of faith and without faith. For religious leaders are there to tell the world about God, to point people to salvation and then welcome and care for all who will come into Christ’s body – the Church.

As God calls us into His new vision of being Church, we can learn much about religious leadership from Psalm 23. For this psalm shows us God’s way of shepherding His people as He draws people into the Lord’s house forever. And, as we read, recite, sing or pray psalm 23, what jumps out is that God’s ways are good, generous, loving, compassionate, merciful and kind to all those who are drawn to, and who try to follow God’s ways. For God refreshes the souls of all who follow Him; and God gives clear guidance to the path of righteousness; and God Himself makes people feel respected, justified and treated with generosity; so that, even when at risk and endangered on every side, they feel safe because God is with them. I believe that if we dare to follow as God calls to his Church that the other promise of the OT prophecy will be fulfilled, for God promises to: gather up his people and return them to His fold under the leadership, care and protection of new shepherds’ new religious leaders who will follow God’s leadership style so that God’s people multiply in number and be fruitful.

For, as we are reminded by the Epistle, there was a time when we in the Church were outsiders, for we too were once counted amongst the people who were without God - a people without hope, outsiders to God’s kingdom, strangers to the promises made by God to all His people. This was before we committed ourselves to Christ by following in his footsteps. Now we are a people reconciled to God, through the cross of Jesus. A people who are changed because of Christ. A people made different through the cross of Jesus. A people included and counted as God’s people. A people who are members of the household of God, citizens alongside the saints, people standing on the shoulders of the apostles and the prophets, with Jesus as the cornerstone. A people that God is building and growing into a spiritual people who are the holy dwelling place for God.

Now in this generation we find ourselves sent out to serve a people like those in the Gospel, a people so desperate that they pursued Jesus and his disciples. A people that God sent to us during this pandemic. A people who are not part of the traditional Church, but who God called to turn to us when they recognised their need of God. A people that God now needs us to serve, in all sorts of new ways, all of which are to be in accordance with His will. For the pandemic has been a time of unexpected rest for the Church, a time to renew and take stock, a time to re-think and re-order. And, just like in the gospel, when the disciples were taking time to rest, eat and refresh - Jesus stepped in to hold and teach and heal his lost and desperate people.

Today, I pray we will listen, hear, discern and then follow God call – so that the Son who gave himself so that the world may live, can pour out His power into the world so that all who listen will become perfect in His love and share in His glory.

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 toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen. (Saint Ignatius of Loyola)

Lords’ prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen

The Grace: May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and evermore. AMEN

Thank you for joining us today.