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SUNDAY 19th JUNE: THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

 

READINGS

Isaiah 65: 1-9

Luke 8: 26-39

 

REFLECTION

 

One of my favourite stories to share with you is about a four year old little boy who was sitting at the dinner table with his family and just about to eat. He was asked to say grace before the meal. As the story goes, he thanked Jesus for the food and for his family and ended the prayer by adding, “And please, Jesus, let this broccoli taste like strawberries. Amen.”....It didn't work. This little boy knew Jesus loved him and he could ask for what he wanted. Not bad for a four year old's theology. But we know that Jesus gives us what we need and not what we want. However, if this is the extent of our theology, this idea of a kind of fairy-god-mother Jesus who makes wishes come true, we eventually find ourselves disappointed and disillusioned. (I mean the broccoli still tasted like broccoli). Sadly there are many preachers who make their living peddling this fairy-god-mother Jesus who is said to work out all the problems in our lives with the swish of a wand. But in our Gospel reading from St. Luke, we get a story of a Jesus who seems to leave a path of destruction in his wake. Instead of inviting a new disciple into the group, he refuses the man's request to follow him. At the end of this story, no one gets what they want.

 

The story starts out happy enough...The beginning of chapter 8 tells us that Jesus, the twelve disciples, and the women who were following with them were in Galilee when they decided to go across to the other side of the lake. This puts Jesus into Gentile territory for the first and only time in Luke's Gospel. Luke makes it really obvious by telling us about the herd of pigs (which Jewish people didn't eat or raise). So here they are, Jesus and his entourage ready to take the good news of the Kingdom of God to the outsiders, and Jesus is immediately greeted by a man who was possessed. We don't know what it must have been like for this possessed man living in a graveyard. It may be a little too far to ask our imaginations to go. But the man's situation illustrates a bigger problem – the man's loneliness. This is something most of us can identify with. We all know what it is like to be on the outside. At sometime in our life we may have memories of being excluded by other people for a variety of reasons. This makes us feel inadequate and lonely. Regardless of the reason for this man's loneliness, and regardless of ours, Jesus comes to restore us – all of us – to God and to each other. Jesus puts us right back into the community from which we were excluded. You would think that after Jesus had healed the man in our story there would have been cause for celebration. He now wanted to follow Jesus and join the disciples. But Jesus told him to stay within his community. As you can imagine the people were afraid that he may become possessed again and were afraid.

 

The question for them and for us is: What are we willing to sacrifice to let someone back in to the community? When people have wronged us, or when they have neglected us, or when they are just a pain to deal with? Bringing people back into the community costs us something, and forces us to make adjustments. Do we have a place in our communities for a refugee who has been forced to flee their own country? Do we have a place for the child who has disappointed us, the friend from whom we are estranged?

We know these people need to be restored and we now it will cost. This cost can easily cause us to ignore Jesus just like the townspeople in our story. We are okay with including people as long as they add to our values, but it is dangerous and we may feel threatened by those who prove to be an emotional burden. But Jesus asks us to care for our brothers and sisters and for the wounds that we didn't create. Are we willing to see the grace and power of restoration, or will it cost too much? How many pigs are we willing to let run off the cliff?

 

The church is not the place to look for easy answers or escape from pain. It is not the place to come looking for a fairy-god-mother or the secret to success. The church is messy and vulnerable, costly and sometimes uncomfortable. In Luke's story today, no one ever seems to get exactly what they want. That is fine. In fact, this is good news because it is here that Jesus meets us. It is in the mess that God is at work.

Thanks be to God.

 

PRAYER

 

Lord Jesus Christ,

when there has been no one else to bear the pain or share the hurt,

no one to lend an ear or offer a shoulder to cry on,

you have been there, faithful and true,

ready to lift us up and tend our wounds,

to listen to our cry and hold us close.

Loving Lord, teach us to be there for others in turn.

Amen.

 

Every Blessing,

Canon Dave                                                       18th June 2022

Canon Dave’s Weekly Message

Dear Friends

 

No fire engine call out this week but I did manage a lovely train journey to Gloucester on Tuesday. Because the train consisted of nine coaches I managed to have a window seat all the way from Chesterfield to Cheltenham before changing for Gloucester on a London bound train.  What a lovely cathedral city, located on the River Severn and situated between the beautiful areas of the Cotswolds and Forest of Dean. The most inland port in the UK, Gloucester has a proud industrial past, intertwined with a rich history that dates back to Roman times. Combine this with an ever-changing and developing city, Gloucester offers the perfect mix of old and new.

After spending a few hours in the city and tasting a Gloucestershire sausage hot dog, I arrived home feeling very satisfied with my day out.