Written Service: The Fourth Sunday After Trinity

This Fourth Sunday after Trinity we welcome Rev. Dr. Mattijs Ploeger to lead us in worship. 

We come from scattered lives to meet with God. Let us recognise his presence with us.

Be silent for a moment…

The Lord says: When the time comes,
I will answer the prayers of my people.

This is our hope, our living hope. We shall be glad.

The Lord says: When the time comes,
I will lead you
as a shepherd leads his flock to fresh pastures.

This is our hope, our living hope. We shall be glad.

Zecheriah 9: 9-12
Romans 7: 15-25a
Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-end


In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sisters and brothers,

1. The psychology of St Paul (second reading)

Some people talk a lot about the “modern” world. They emphasize how different modern people are from pre-modern people, before the Enlightenment. And there is probably some truth in that. It could, however, be argued that the essence of the human person hasn’t changed that much at all. Sometimes we, modern people, are irredeemably pre-modern. And the other way round: sometimes pre-modern people seem to be incredibly similar to us.

We just heard an example of that in the second reading. A pre-modern figure of two thousand years ago, St Paul, sounds much like a modern person, who describes his or her psychological battle with the opposite forces within themselves. I quote:

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. […] I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7,15-19).

It sounds like the introspection of someone who is in therapy. What pre-modern Paul experienced within himself, some two thousand years ago, sounds rather like the psychological problems we can experience in our modern world.

We also suffer under the paradox of our human nature. God created us as “good”, “very good” (Genesis 1,31). But as Adam and Eve have shown us (Genesis 3), we humans do not remain within the boundaries of what is good. We always try to transcend ourselves and by doing so we transgress the boundaries of the good and righteous live that is truly human. We suffer under the paradox that we are neither entirely evil nor entirely good, but something in the middle. And that middle position between good and evil results in a battle – an internal battle between the forces that are at work within us. “I do not understand my own actions. […] I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

2. The invitation of Jesus Christ (gospel reading)

To people so torn apart between good and evil, to people so torn apart by all the forces which try to have impact upon us, Jesus offers salvation. In today’s gospel he says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11,28).

Perhaps some critical biblical scholar would now intervene: Jesus said those words in a completely different situation. He probably talked to people who had no home, no food, who daily experienced problems of primary importance for staying alive at all. That may be true. But if salvation in Jesus has any concrete meaning for us today, for people in our time and culture, why would Jesus not extend his invitation to us as well? Why should our problems not be taken seriously by Jesus? Internal psychological struggles, stress problems – stress because of an ever increasing workload, stress because of the many choices we have to make daily. Such problems can sometimes be real problems of primary importance for the lives of people in our time and culture.

So I do want to compare St Paul’s psychological sufferings to ours. And I do want to apply Jesus’s invitation to ourselves. “Come to me,” he says to us. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. This is a real invitation by a real Saviour.

Salvation in Jesus Christ is not just a traditional formula, not just a pious thought. Salvation in Jesus Christus has real meaning. Namely, that our life is saved. We are saved from everything that threatens our life, our well-being, our sense of identity and destiny. We are loved by Jesus, and that means that he wants us to be us. Without constant stress, without constantly being questioned. We receive our true identity by being saved in him. “Come to me, […] and I will give you rest”.

3. The humble and gentle king (first reading)

The first reading, from the prophet Zechariah, makes clear that salvation and rest from burdens is not a New Testament invention. Already throughout the Old Testament, there are currents which emphasize the humility of the true king, the gentleness of the true ruler.

As we heard in the first reading: “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, [yet] humble and riding on a donkey.” He “shall command peace to the nations”. He “will set […] prisoners free”. In this sense, in this humble and gentle way, “his dominion will be from sea to sea” (Zechariah 9,9-12).

4. “The Call”

Jesus fulfills the Old Testament by taking up this role. In him, the humble and gentle ruler is present. In him, the king is present who brings peace and sets us free. In Jesus, this promise is present, here and now, to you and me. He invites us: “Come to me, […] and I will give you rest”.

And what do we do? We answer his invitation in the way today’s anthem did. That is, by making the invitation mutual. We answer Christ’s call, “Come to me”, by making our own call to him:

“Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life […].

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength […].

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart […].”

The 17th-century Anglican priest and poet George Herbert wrote those lines (“The Call”). A love poem to Christ. Inviting him to come into our lives. As much as he invites us to come into his life.

All people – pre-modern, modern and post-modern – would do good to engage in this mutual invitation between Christ and us. Answering Christ’s call, and calling Christ back, would set us free from all-too-earthly stress. It would relieve us from too much self-importance. It would help us in our internal battle between good and evil.

“Such a Joy, as none can move:

Such a Love, as none can part:

Such a Heart, as joyes in love.”

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Intercessions for Fourth Sunday after Trinity– 5  July 2020

Lord God, we raise our prayers to you in the power of the Spirit who unites us with Christ Jesus trusting that you will hear our prayers and use them to accomplish your will for the world and for the church. Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Creator God, we pray for people and nations who live in fear due to the troubles brought about by the global pandemic.  We pray for those in refugee camps and those bringing aid in Lebanon, Syria and many other places in the world.                                                             Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

Father God, we pray for the people around us in our neighbourhoods and our places of work. Give us sensitivity and insight into their needs and vulnerabilities so that we may learn truly to love our neighbours as ourselves.  Help us to be responsible and sensible in all our interaction with those around us so that we do not increase the chance of infecting, or being infected by those we meet. Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

Gracious God, we pray for people we know who are ill, anxious or bereaved, and for those that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens. We pray that you will lead them, and us, in peace towards healing and wholeness of mind and spirit. In our own community we pray for (….) We remember the faithful departed and give thanks for their lives (….) We pray that you will give strength to their families at this sad time.  Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

Loving God, we offer ourselves to you in faith and confidence. Show us as we go out into the world how we can best prepare ourselves to be part of your response to our prayers. Fill us with the Spirit of life through Christ Jesus, your Son and our Saviour. Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

The anthem is: The Call – Richard Lloyd
The hymn is  NEH 439 – Praise to the holiest in the height

The Blessing

Now may the Lord refresh you and sustain you as you go forward on your journey,
and may the Lord of peace himself
give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all;

and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.