Collect and Readings for Fourth Sunday after Trinity – Genesis 22.1-14, Jeremiah 28.5-9, Psalm 13, Psalm 89.1-4. 8- 18, Romans 6.12-end, Matthew 10.40 - end
The Prayer for today O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that with you as our ruler and guide we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not our hold on things eternal; grant this, heavenly Father, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Some people are unfortunate enough to suffer from vertigo and find that when they are perched anywhere high there is a terrible urge to throw themselves off into that space beneath them. They have to back away from the edge for fear of plunging to their death. It is as if the space commands them, and they have to fight against it. Sin is like that. It pulls us strongly towards our death, and we have a real battle to fight against that urge to go along with its pressurising command. Even while we know that sin is bound to be damaging to us, to those we love, and to our world, our wills and emotions can still drag us over the edge into behaviour which leads to death. As Paul says, it is like being a slave to a tyrannical master, obeying its commands and feeling ‘owned’ by it. It can seem impossibly difficult to imagine how we could ever break free.
Holding on to Christ, through the cross where that grip of sin has been broken for us into a completely different place. Sin will still attempt to pull us over, but the power of Christ living in us enables us to back away from the edge as free agents, rather than slaves. It is as if, rather than being drawn to look down into the strangely enticing death-fall all the time, we can enjoy the loftiness of the breathtaking view without fear.
It is interesting that Paul talks of sin earning death, which implies hard, wearying work. That is true: living enslaved to sin drains us of energy and wears us down. In contrast, righteous living is not a heavy duty, but a loving happy response to a personal free gift.
In today’s Gospel we are reminded that anyone responding to one of God’s people will actually be responding to their God. This suggests that our behaviour as freed slaves will be obvious to those around us, since we will be behaving differently. Our attitude and outlook will be open and available to good, rather than knotted up with fear and self-absorbed in our own wants and demands. We will be more ready to speak out God’s words rather than pandering to what we think people will want to hear, so that we are popular. But it is important to realise that this change is a natural result of responding to God’s love, and not an unhealed determined effort in which we remain slaves.
Some things to think about:
1. If slaves to righteousness, how are we free?
2. Jesus talks as if our Christian faith will be obvious to people. Is it? Or do we prefer to say what people want to hear, in case we upset them?
Rev’d Fiona Robinson