Trinity 1

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Opening Hymn

Readings

Romans 5:1-8 (NLT)

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace[a] with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Matthew 9:35-10:8 (NLT)

35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness. Here are the names of the twelve apostles:

first, Simon (also called Peter),
then Andrew (Peter’s brother),
James (son of Zebedee),
John (James’s brother),
Philip,
Bartholomew,
Thomas,
Matthew (the tax collector),
James (son of Alphaeus),
Thaddaeus,
Simon (the zealot),
Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).

Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: “Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep. Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!

Homily on the reading from Romans

Therefore. Our reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans begins with a “therefore”. The first thing always to ask then, is what has come before. So a quick recap. The letter to the Romans is quite unique amongst Paul’s letters. All his other letters are to churches he has had a role in starting or nurturing. In those letters, Paul is like an anxious parent, writing back to them, checking they are okay, answering questions, resolving disputes, reminding of them of what really matters and warning about bad habits. However, Paul didn’t start the Church in Rome so he doesn’t have that sort of parental relationship with them. He wants to visit them and so he sends this letter ahead of them essentially to introduce himself and his teaching. And his teaching is essentially about grace.

So in the four chapters that happen before our “therefore” Paul explains that the world is a bit of a mess, that God has every right to judge us for making a mess of things, that all God’s people are in the same mess and that our only chance of righteousness is not through belonging to one group or another or through keeping a thousand rules, but through faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot save ourselves. We are too messed up. All we can do is trust in the one who can and does save us. Jesus.

And so we come to our reading. Therefore, since we have been made right by faith in Jesus… We have been made right with God. All our mistakes, our regrets, our selfishness acts or those things we should have done but have forgotten. All that is forgiven and we are made right with God. No barriers now need get in the way of our relationship with the God who loves us. And, so, as our reading goes on, we can have peace. It seems too good to be true but it is true. It is grace.

Paul picks up on the absurd generosity of grace at the end of our reading, when he points out that while some people may occasionally give their lives for a very good person, God died for us while we were still sinners. God loves us before we have done one solitary thing to deserve it. God’s love was never dependent on what we did – it is always a free gift, freely offered and our only part is to receive it.

One of my favourite definitions of grace is that grace means getting what we don’t deserve – in a good way.

But what about the times we worry we are getting what we do deserve, or worse that we are getting what we don’t deserve in a bad way. The question of why we experience difficult times, why we suffer, has perplexed humanity from its earliest days. Why do bad things happen to mainly good people. Well, Paul doesn’t have a complete answer, because no one this side of eternity does. But one thing he does know it that it isn’t because God doesn’t love us. If God loved us so much to die for us even when we were God’s enemies, why would God reject us as friends. No, if we are struggling, it isn’t because we are unloved. Our trials are not some divine punishment. Instead Paul asserts that because we are loved, deeply, truly abundantly loved, even in struggles and suffering there can be hope of good. Knowing this will not make your problems disappear. It will not make pain easier, grief less crushing, mental illness lift or a difficult home situation resolve. But it might help to know in the midst of whatever you are experiencing that you are not alone, you are loved, you are precious.

And so let’s pause for a moment of prayer. Perhaps you need to pray for yourself, telling God about something that is causing you pain or difficulty right now. Perhaps invite God to reassure you of God’s love in the midst of this challenging situation. Perhaps you are doing okay, but you know someone struggling. Hold them before God in love right now. And then, as we are often invited to be the answer to the prayers we offer, what might you do to support, show love or solidarity with someone who is struggling this week?

Prayers

We pray for God’s grace.
Lord, receive our praise
All  and hear our prayer.

Lord God, through your grace we are your people:
through your Son you have redeemed us;
in your Spirit you have made us your own.
We pray for your church
Make our hearts respond to your love.
Lord, receive our praise
All  and hear our prayer.

We pray for the needs of the world.
We pray for all poverty, oppression and injustice to cease.
We pray in particular for an end to racism
and ask you will help us to work for a fairer world.
Make our lives bear witness to your glory in the world.
Lord, receive our praise
All  and hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are unwell in mind, body or spirit.
We pray for all who work to care for the sick or infirm.
We pray for hospital chaplains bringing hope and humanity at difficult times.
Make our wills eager to obey, and our hands ready to heal.
Lord, receive our praise
All  and hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are bereaved,
remembering those known to us who are grieving at this time…
Lord, receive our praise
All  and hear our prayer.

We give you thanks for your love
which is beyond our imaginings.
We pray you will help us to know your love
in our daily challenges and difficulties.
Lord, receive our praise
All  and hear our prayer.

Closing Hymn

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