A reflection for the Third Sunday after Trinity

Reading Matthew 10: 40-42

‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

Reflection

In recent days, churches and parishes around the country have been preparing to welcome worshipers back to church services after an absence of over three months. However, due to the need to continue to be vigilant and to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it might not be quite the welcome you would normally expect and things will be somewhat different from before.

On arrival at your local church, you will be greeted with signs to remind you of the need to observe social distance of two metres from your fellow worshipers. You will probably be advised to wear a face mask. There will be no opportunity to mingle with other parishioners inside the church before or after the service. Instead of sitting in your customary pew, you will be directed to a seat for yourself only, or for members of your household. There will be no handshake for the sign of peace or with the rector as you depart after worship. All of this will seem strange for a while, but we will get used to it and we know it is for a good reason – the safety and welfare of everyone.

Today’s short gospel reading is all about welcome. Our Lord had been addressing his disciples before sending them out as his ambassadors. He had warned them about the persecution, opposition and conflict they were likely to face as his disciples. At the conclusion of his address, he told them that those who welcomed his disciples also welcomed Christ and the Heavenly Father who sent him, and they would be rewarded for doing so.

This has implications for the welcome we extend to people wherever we encounter them. God the Father sent his Son into the world to draw people to a knowledge of his love. It is His desire that we should know him and make him known. As disciples of Jesus, we are his ambassadors and he chooses to use us to invite people to know him. The welcome we extend in his name is intended for everyone, without discrimination or qualification – nobody is excluded.

We are aware that this is not the experience of many people around the world who have been excluded on grounds of race, ethnicity, gender, social background and a host of different reasons, causing people to be labelled as outsiders or ‘other’. The fact that professional footballers can be seen with the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ is evidence of the way so many people feel excluded or rejected on grounds of race.

There are many forms of exclusion and rejection practised in the world. One that has concerned many people in Europe is the policy of adopting ‘LGBT-free zones’ in a number of towns and regions in Poland in recent months. There are fears that this could stigmatise gay people, reviving memories of the ghettos in central Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Governments and leaders have a responsibility to avoid words or actions that could result in certain groups being marginalised or abused.

By contrast, the Christian gospel extends a welcome to all people without discrimination. All are made in the image of God. Christ welcomes us all and we must do the same. By our words and actions, we show that all people matter to God.

You might not receive a handshake the next time you attend church, but I hope that everyone feels welcomed and included.

Collect for the third Sunday after Trinity

Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts whereby we call you Father: Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, that we and all creation may be brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of intercession

God our Father, We give thanks for the privilege of gathering for worship in your presence. We ask that our church communities may be places where your love is reflected, where all people feel welcomed, valued and included. We pray for Pat, our bishop, this diocese and its people and our parish, as we prepare to re-open our churches for worship. May all that we say and do be to your praise and glory.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our country, our President and all in authority, especially those with responsibility for public health policy. We pray for the incoming government, that they may provide effective and responsible leadership, with due regard for the care of creation and the needs of all people.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for people across the world who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; we pray for frontline health care workers, for all who are ill and those who are anxious about loved ones. We pray for scientists and researchers who are working to develop a cure for the virus. Guide them in all that they do.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We give thanks for all who work to protect human rights, oppose oppression and stand for justice. We pray for communities and minorities who suffer persecution, discrimination and denial of basic rights and freedom. Give us the courage to always stand for truth and freedom.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all in our community who suffer through illness in body, mind or spirit. Grant them your healing and peace. We pray for all who grieve and mourn. Comfort them in their loss and sorrow.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

As school terms end, we pray for all schools and universities, for teachers, lecturers and boards of management. Guide them in the preparations they make for re-opening schools. Bless all our young people, especially those who are changing school, or moving on to further education. Protect all of our families throughout the summer and keep in safety all who travel.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all evermore. Amen.

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