View the video of the Eucharist for the 2nd Sunday after Trinity conducted by Mother Katie from inside the Church of St James Malden, including the preached sermon.
If you wish you can also follow the service liturgy by downloading the following pdf:
Faithful Creator, whose mercy never fails: deepen our faithfulness to you and to your living Word, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
by Mother Katie
In the UK today it is Father’s Day. If you are a dad and you are watching – I hope you have a lovely day. If you still have your Dad with you – I hope you get to spoil him and thank him for all he has done. If you don’t have your dad either because you are estranged or he has died or you simply can’t be with him today – then special prayers for you.
My Dad died when I was 12.
He was a wonderful man who could be as generous and creative and loving as you could imagine. He was a lecturer at London College of Printing and I remember when I was a child we had a school project called “Where I live” – and we were asked to produce something to share with the class. People came in with paintings of their homes or booklets written about where they lived. My dad said we needed to do more than that. He brought home one of the first video recorders – when they were still very rare – and my project much to delight of everyone was all on film – complete with soundtrack – voice over and interviews. He was like that – he made you feel you were the most special person alive – that nothing was impossible and everything he did left you in awe and going – WOW!
He was also a Dad who had high expectations though – not always easy to meet – I was told at 8 that I needed to go to Oxford and that should be my aim. At 18 when I arrived at Oxford University he wasn’t there to see it.
And he was the one you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of too – full of love – he could be tough too. And I knew if Kathryn was called – and not Katie – I was in for a difficult conversation, about to be called out for my behaviour and possibly face some consequences I wouldn’t like.
There is something similar in our Gospel today.
It is a “Kathryn” moment. It is a difficult conversation time. There is some learning to be done – some consequences set out – expectations made clear but all framed with love. Meant to build up community and faith and not make us afraid; the opposite in fact – this says despite the tough talk – despite the tough world – don’t be afraid – sit up and listen by all means but remember you are so loved that even the hairs on your head are counted. So do not be afraid but make sure you listen carefully – for these are words designed to strengthen and mature us – like all good ‘Kathryn talks’ were.
So what is Jesus saying with all this stuff about hell and needing to take up our cross – bringing a sword instead of peace – setting people against each other and disowning anyone who denies him? Sounds hard doesn’t it?
Well, it is important to understand some context here first.
When Matthew writes this Gospel it is a time of persecution for the early church and a time of judgment in Jerusalem with the destruction of the Temple In 70AD. It is a time of great danger and great temptation. We might expect God to protect new and fragile Christian community from harm – but the early followers of Christ soon realised this was never part of the deal.
Take the disciples – perhaps the most favoured – this is how it works for them: it is said that James – who this church was named after was killed by the sword for his faith; Peter was crucified upside down; Andrew and Simon the Zealot were also both crucified; Thomas killed by a spear; James the Lesser thrown down from the Temple; Judas beaten to death; Matthias (who replaced Judas who hung himself) was stoned and then beheaded; Matthew killed by the sword and Paul beheaded. John wasn’t killed – but he didn’t escape unharmed – having boiling oil poured on him.
(And we think lockdown has been tough and demanded hard things of us! It was capital letters HARD for the early followers of Christ – they were forced to go well beyond what they knew – well beyond comfort zones – they had to accept change and learn new things at a very stressful pace.)
And in the context of this incredibly difficult time they are charged with making a choice – a choice that will cost many of them their lives – who do you love most? What is most important thing in your life? Where are you giving your time, your money, your encouragement and love? What is the one thing that can not be removed – even if everthing else we love and value is taken away?
And the answer every time for them has to be God – has to be Christ. No matter what. Nothing else is more important.
It is an echo of Torah – ‘you shall have no other God’s before me.’
And that is hard – for them – for any of us. We all make idols – we all place value and give time and talent and affection to other things than God.
I’ve been asking people on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp – what are the 5 most important things to you?
And I think the hardship of lockdown has given us a clearer lens about what really matters – as hardly anyone mentioned anything materialistic – though a few people named their phone or the internet. But given the events of the past few weeks you can hardly blame them – these are the things which have kept us connected.
People mainly spoke of family; friends; teachers and mentors; pets; cuddles and giggles. They talked of beautiful countryside; good wine and food; music; art and creativity.
They also mentioned things like peace; equality; freedom; justice; inclusion; kindness; honesty; belonging and community; learning; happiness; health; being loved and loving others; protecting the vulnerable; service; time alone to reflect; prayer; faith; knowing God is there.
And some were very specific – black lives matter and climate change both came up.
And the stark challenge of this passage is twofold.
First, if these things matter, if protecting the vulnerable and justice and freedom and peace really are the most important things – if black lives matter and the climate urgently needs our attention – we might have to do something – we might sometimes have to speak truth to power – or much, much harder speak truth to ourselves and our friends and our family – we might have to change or take a stand that costs us – maybe financially, maybe relationally, maybe in terms of reputation.
And second – and even harder because we must hold this in tension with the first – we must look at all of our lists – all the things we hold dear and value most and we must be prepared to lay them all down if necessary.
For only God – only our relationship with Christ is what finally matters. All else, however wonderful, however precious, however worthy is nothing in comparison. Because at the end of the day this is what we shall be judged on.
The children and I often play a game called I love you more than. And it is very simple game that began when they were very small – we each say that we love the others more than all the best things in the world – anything we can think of – we’ve had it all from carrots to candles. So it starts like this – I love you more than chocolate! Says one. No, comes the reply – I love you more than sticky toffee pudding and ice-cream; then the stakes are lifted – I love you more than summer holidays! But I love you more than Christmas stockings!; and so it goes each trying to show more and more love until eventually we come to the final answer I love you more than anything in the world, anything in the universe apart from God!
The children have always known that however much we love one another – we love God more. God beats all other answers – once you get to God the game is over – because God wins every time and they know you can’t say I love you more than God without losing the entire game.
In Biblical terms they know that we are each called to our own Abraham and Isaac moment if we really want to follow God.
BUT the thing is – once you make that leap – once you decide to commit all – once you die to self – and are willing to take the hard lesson – you find God is enough – more than enough – and whatsmore everything else you care about is contained in him too. And you can trust all you love and value to his care.
As St Theresa of Avila said
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
This afternoon we are opening 3.30-5.30pm for private prayer. And I am going to invite you to come in if you want and bring your own 5 most important things written down and lay them on the altar – symbolically to mark a moment when you say again or perhaps for the first time – these are hard times; these are challenging times; these are perhaps dangerous times – and you God, and you alone, are the most important in my life. I chose to make you the priority of my life – I put you first.
If you can’t come to church – remember God notices the sparrows – and you are worth much more than a sparrow – God sees and loves you wherever you pray.
And I have a couple of prayers which I invite all of us to say – wherever we are – the first is from St Alphonsus,
It goes like this…
I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you; my words: to have you for their theme; my actions: to reflect my love for you; my sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.
I want to do what you ask of me: in the way you ask, for as long as you ask, because you ask it.
I pray, Lord, that you enlighten my mind, inflame my will, purify my heart, and sanctify my soul.
Good isn’t it? I think it is a good prayer to pray as we exit lockdown, seek to renew and rebuild church and country.
And then there is this – it is known as the covenant prayer
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
And meaning that – and living that – may we all live a little bolder from now on for the Kingdom of God – and serve our Saviour whatever the cost.