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SUNDAY 7th AUGUST: THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY

 

READINGS

Genesis 15: 1-6

Luke 12: 32-40

 

REFLECTION

Can anything in football be as nerve-wracking as taking a crucial penalty in the knock-out rounds of the World Cup? A nation holds its collective breath as the player steps up to the ball. The former Liverpool and England player Steven Gerrard describes the intense pressure of taking a penalty against Portugal in the quarter finals of the 2006 World Cup. After a “tortuous walk” up to the ball, Gerrard psyched himself up and ran through his mental checklist: “I had belief in my technique.....I was ready,” he says. “But then came a few seconds' delay before the referee blew his whistle. Those moments seemed like an eternity, and definitely put me off,” Gerrard says. By the time the whistle blew he had lost his focus, and he missed the penalty. Portugal cheered while England sighed.

 

Today's Gospel Reading follows on from the beautiful and often-quoted passage in which Jesus illustrates his teaching with the examples of birds and lilies. God provides for them, so they have no need to stockpile food, toil or spin. This provides the context and sets the tone for today's reading, as Jesus with more words of comfort and reassurance, tells his listeners, “it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom”. He then tells them to live charitably and simply - “Sell your possessions, and give alms.” He then likens people of faith to servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding celebration. The master might come home during the middle of the night, near dawn, or at an unexpected hour”.

 

Suddenly we are jolted out of our comfort zone. What is that we have just heard? We have to give away our material possessions. Surely we have been told that God will provide for us without us having to toil. And why should we force ourselves to stay awake? We need our beauty sleep! Also, what is all this about Jesus catching us unawares? That can be very unsettling. I think we prefer the stuff about the birds and the lilies. This teaching makes us feel very uncomfortable, so we just want to plod along.

 

Too often we interpret the teachings of Jesus like naughty children caught misbehaving by a strict parent. We may appear alert and focused, but inwardly we become restless, fidgety and sometime rebellious. In fact it is in those moments when we are shifting in our seats and silently quibbling we are least focused.

 

Steven Gerrard scored many penalties in his playing career. For this he needed to tap into that state of readiness that eluded him in 2006. His autobiography gives us a sense of the discipline that was required to get to that point, the endless practice and training, the antisocial hours and lifestyle.

 

If we want to focus on the kingdom of God as our goal, we need to start training. A good way to kick off is by meditating on the assurance of Jesus that it is indeed God's “good pleasure” to give us the kingdom. When we allow this teaching to sink in deeply, we can start to trust and relax.

 

Next, we need to become alert to the teachings of Jesus that our heart's treasure lies not in material possessions, but in sharing our resources. We need to put aside childish ideas that God wants to impose austerity upon us, or for us to endure personal hardship. We need to realise that God is not trying to catch us unawares, ambush or chastise us like a strict parent.

 

We may not be cut out to be top-class footballers, but each and every one of us, without exception, no matter what our background or brokenness has the potential to achieve more than we can possibly imagine. But we will never find fulfilment by simply plodding along. We need the Holy Spirit working through us, to tap into that elusive quality of relaxed alertness that already exists within, but which we lose when we take our eye off the ball. To get to this point we need discipline and practice. This involves engaging with the word of God, saying our prayers and practising love and charity all day, every day.

 

PRAYER

Gracious God,

help us to be alert of your presence with us

ready to share what we have with those in need,

and to seek your kingdom here on earth.

As we continue on our journey of faith

help us to proclaim the good news of your love

so that what we declare with our lips

we may believe in our hearts

and display in our lives.

This prayer we offer in the name of Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

Every Blessing,

Canon Dave                                                       6th August 2022

Canon Dave’s Weekly Message

Dear Friends

 

Last Saturday I had the privilege of marrying my nephew at a beautiful church in Newton St. Cyres on the outskirts of Exeter. The journey by train on the Friday was horrendous for many passengers as some were standing all the way from Derby to Exeter. Fortunately we had booked seats.

Our Bed and Breakfast accommodation for the weekend was excellent. The man who owned the premises was one amazing person. A few years ago Kerry and his nephew built a 24 foot long rowing boat and rowed from Tennerife to Barbados for a challenge. It took them 62 days, 5 hours and 26 minutes. The only scary situation was when an enormous whale came very close to the boat. After It had taken one look at Kerry and his nephew it descended to the depths never to be seen again. We listened for hours about his expedition over a glass of chablis and some very delicious food.