The Sunday of the Twelve Apostles
Here is our written online service celebrating the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – the Sunday of the Twelve Apostles. We also celebrated Music Sunday and gave thanks for the role of music in the life of the church.
We come from scattered lives to meet with God. Let us recognise his presence with us.
As God’s people we have gathered:
Let us worship him together.
May the Father of all mercies cleanse us from our sins,
and restore us in his image
to the praise and glory of his name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Our sermon today is written by Rev Jake DeJonge.
+ Jesus said: ’The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
Have you ever noticed what peculiar group of people our Lord appointed as his representatives. Not only in the first group of what we call his disciples, which means pupils or learners or apprentices; later on they are called apostles and that means those who are being sent to bring a message, to bring the joyful message of the reign of the God who is there for people, who is with people.
There are some peculiar people in that group of first apostles Jesus sent out; more about that later.
But first I want to share a strong memory that came to me when thinking about this Sunday and the time we live in. It is a song from the late sixties, 1967 I discovered on internet, a song by Four Jacks and a Jill: “It’s a strange, strange world we live in Master Jack….” Perhaps you remember it as well, probably not, I’ll be 82 this year! I asked my wife Irene if she knew it. Oh yes, she answered, you sing it all the time! That was mid-sixties, I had just moved from Canada to Johannesburg, South Africa, with the idea of travelling round the world and back to Canada. Not quite the way it turned out, but that is another story.
“It’s a strange, strange world we live in Master Jack….” We can say the same thing really about lots of things, like about Moses for example, of whom we heard in the first reading, and about most of the prophets, of whom John the Baptizer was the last; and what a character he was.
We can with equal justice say it about the life of the church, long past and present, that often the most unexpected persons are called by God and the Church to proclaim the message of Jesus. Perhaps it might even be you!
“It’s a strange, strange world we live in Master Jack….” Just have a look at all the priests, all the ministers you have had in your life, and still have, to share with you the message of Jesus in word and sacrament. In these ministers, also, you find a great variety of people, with differing gifts and temperaments and personalities, and different backgrounds and experience; but they are all men and women who know, who are convinced, that they have been called by God; and the Church has confirmed that call; called by God and sent by God to do the work of a priest in His Church.
But let us have a further look at today’s gospel reading.
During a long journey past the towns and villages of Galilee, where he preaches the kingdom and conducts services of healing, during this tour Jesus becomes touched, touched to the core of his being, by the spiritual and emotional poverty and needs of the people he encounters. They are confused and disturbed, they feel helpless and lost and there appears to be no one to direct them and lead them. They were, as the gospel says, like sheep without a shepherd.
Had they known the song, they probably also would have sung: “It’s a strange, strange world we live in Master Jack….” And then the gospel continues with the words l quoted as a text, words of Jesus to his disciples, his learners, his apprentices: ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
And then Jesus sends out his own disciples, his apprentices and makes them apostles, makes them into those who are sent out; Jesus sends them out with a message, a message with power, to show in word and deed that the reign of God has begun in a new way in Jesus, and that in the power of the Spirit that Jesus sends, there can he wholeness of life, there can be a new balance to life and a sense of peace and wellbeing and direction and purpose.
In this time of corona, of fear, anxiety, confusion, we can do with some encouragement like this. Jesus tells those He calls and sends, to stay among their own people to start off with; start in the family, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
The situation in the world around us is, on the one hand much different from that in the gospel, yet on the other hand it is basically the same. There is, close at hand and further away, so much fear and anxiety of Covid 19, and of the economic impact that has, and is going to have, fear of an uncertain future. And there are so many people who go through life neglected and exhausted, who have been hurt, damaged by life, and are confused and feel helpless in a community and world that fails to relate to them and to their needs, especially now. They do not know where to turn and wherever they look they seem to be disappointed or rejected; they too are like sheep without a shepherd.
Yet, to that group and to ourselves, in our communities, comes the message that there is hope; that we must never despair. The hope I refer to, is the hope which, as St. Paul puts it in the reading from Romans, the hope which is stronger than hardship and challenge and suffering, because that hope stems from God who has reached out to us while we were in bad shape, spiritually, mentally and gave us peace with God through Jesus our Lord.
‘The harvest is plentiful, hut the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’ Who will the Lord call; who will he send‘?
Jesus, in his time, sent out twelve disciples and called them apostles. A strange collection of people they were: Simon Peter, who was later to deny knowing Jesus three times, and his brother Andrew; two fishermen, ordinary, simple, down to earth folk, without a great deal of formal education; Peter, with a temper, impatient, quite a rough sort.
And then James and his younger brother John, also fishermen who, perhaps urged on by their concerned mother, suggested to Jesus that they should really have a place of honour in his kingdom; somewhat conceited perhaps, we might think.
And then Thomas, doubting Thomas, remember, he is being sent out as well; and Matthew the tax collector, the man who betrayed his own people by collecting taxes for the Roman emperor who occupied his country; and Matthew collected an extra percentage for himself on top; that is before he was called by Jesus and changed his way of life and followed our Lord.
Then a number of unknowns whose names are not even the same in every list; and at the end, Simon the Cananaean and Judas lscariot. Simon the Cananaean, member of a subversive group, in certain circles no doubt classiﬁed as terrorist, who with revolutionary tactics tried to inflict damage on the Romans. And Judas Iscariot, the treasurer of Jesus’ band of preachers who, later on, was to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
To this odd collection of people Jesus gives the power of the Spirit of God to proclaim the kingdom of God, to their own people, in their own community. …. And they succeed; later on we read that they return with joy, because they found, to their amazement really, that, through trust in God’s power, they were enabled to show, in word and deed, what the kingdom of God can mean to people. An odd collection of people; an employment agency would never have selected them for this job, that is for certain. Jesus said: ’The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few….’ Perhaps Jesus is also calling us, ordinary and unique persons that we are; perhaps Jesus is calling us to co-operate with him in a new and unexpected way, to work together, perhaps in just a small way, in this task of passing on the message, this good news to our community, to our own people.
“It’s a strange, strange world we live in Master Jack….”
Yet, in this peculiar time we live in, world-wide, uncertain, worrying, … but, as always, we are in God’s hand.
Prayers – Intercessions
Heavenly Father, we come to you at this time, in our unease at what has happened and is happening in the world. Where there could have been a working together of people and nations to combat an unseen enemy, there is now dissention and rivalry. The self-sacrifice of so many in giving their lives for others, as Christ did on the cross, which could have shown a new way forward in peace, cooperation and mutual respect, has quickly been forgotten in a sea of dissatisfaction and jealousies, protests and reprisals.
Heavenly Father You give the world time and again the chance to shake itself out of its selfishness and stubbornness, turn at last the hearts of all leaders to love, mercy and humanity, and all peoples to humility and obedience, and open the eyes of all, while they still can, to turn to You, O God, their only Salvation;
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Look in mercy, O God, on Your Church in its present confusion, and apparent helplessness in the face of so many enemies, renew its hope of Your Son’s return, and stir up its ministers to discern what You would have them do, and witness for Your truth, that in the light of their witness both rulers and people may turn to You;
On this Music Sunday, with our enforced silence in Church, we pray for all who You inspire to compose music, for all to whom You give skill and devotion to perform it,
and for all who are enriched and renewed by it…
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for all in distress at this time,
all who have been touched by the covid-19 virus, all sick and suffering ,
all victims of war and violence and those suffering under the many inhumane regimes;
the millions of refugees fleeing for their lives, and the countries to which they have flown;
We pray particularly for our own congregation, for those on our Chaplaincy Prayer List;
for those too frail or handicapped to be present with us in Church;
and for those for whom we personally wish to pray,
Comfort, O God, all in distress, relieve them from their suffering if it be Your will,
and lift them up in Your everlasting arms;
Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for the souls of the faithful departed this life in the faith of Christ,
may they rest in Your peace and awake to a joyful resurrection.
may the songs of the angels sustain us,
may the praises of the saints inspire us,
and may the silent music of the Unseen Trinity be in our hearts;
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of Your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen
Notice: if you wish to watch the RSCM Big Music Sunday Service will be streamed at 7 pm our time (6 pm BST).
May God, who gives patience and encouragement, give you a spirit of unity
to live in harmony as you follow Jesus Christ,
so that with one voice
you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.