Collect and Readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity – Lamentations 1.1-6, Habakkuk 1.1-4; 2.1-4, Lamentations 3. 19-26, Psalm 137, Psalm 37.1-9, 2 Timothy 1.1-14, Luke 17.5-10

The Prayer for today O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers of your people who call upon you; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This week’s readings are full of laments and heartbroken crying. Our faith is not a fair-weather faith, but speaks into our pain as well as our joy, into our darkest valleys as well as our hilltop experiences. It is both crucifixion and resurrection. God never does nothing when we pray; he may not come charging into a situation and sort it out in the way we would like, but in his time, which is best time, he will redeem it for good, and while we are waiting he will provide all the courage, inner peace and hope we need.

The important thing is for us to establish, as we cry, is God’s position in the suffering. So often when there are national tragedies we hear people crying, ‘How could a loving God let this happen?’ as if God were there orchestrating the evil or, even worse, watching it with his arms folded. This is a terrible distortion of the truth, for the real God of compassion is neither tyrannical, nor aloof and unconcerned. Nor is he well intentioned but ineffectual. He is actually there suffering alongside the broken-hearted, sharing their grief and distress and ready to comfort them by being there. The costly gift of free will is matched by the costly gift of loving redemption.

At the same time, as this week’s Gospel reminds us, there is no room for spiritual self-pity. We have no built-in rights for everything in our lives to run smoothly and easily, and Jesus is forthright in talking of the servant who simply accepts the work and weariness as part of his duty, without expecting any special payment or privileges. If following Christ brings us hardship and suffering, that is no more than we are told to expect, and we are asked to accept it as such, always on the understanding and conviction that we will be provided with whatever grace and strength we need to cope and triumph over the difficulties.

Some things to reflect on:

• Has the message of the media – that it is normal and our right to be happy, wealthy and healthy – given us false assumptions and expectations in this age?

• What benefits does God manage to harvest from suffering, provided we allow him to work his redeeming love in the situation?

God bless and stay safe and well.

Rev’d Fiona Robinson