Sermon 25th June

Readings Matthew  10, 24-39, Jeremiah 20, 7-13, Pslam 69 7-18

How hard were you listening to our readings this morning? Or our psalm?

If you were really listening, did you hear all the harsh  words in each one of them, and hear them as simply being wors of lament of the psalmist, the prophet or the gospel writer’s account of Jesus’ words. Or were there a few chords struck in your own life?

Last week , if you remember, in the verses in Matthew’s gospel just before our reading today, Jesus was sending his disciples out for the first time, to do his work, do as he did. And he told them it might be a bit tough at times. We compared that to the commission at the end of the gospel, when, although it was still just as tough, they had the message of the cross and resurrection, and the power of the Holy Spirit behind them.

This week, Jesus’ teaching to his disciples (and of course to us) is just as tough, yes he continues to say they’re going to meet conflict and disagreement against what they preach, but he goes further. They are going to create division, even in families, conflict of loyalty between faith and family, and, not peace, but the sword.

And having just read from Jeremiah where the prophet is complaining to God that he’d been deceived about the difficulty of his task, that he was faced with an impossible situation where if he spoke out he’d be ridiculed and denounce, but if he didn’t he would be too.

And the psalmist the same, who has insults heaped upon him, even by his own family, he fasts, yet still suffers and he weeps, he cries out for rescue.


These are people of deep faith- so much so that their words were recorded for all time. Deep faith. Yet they struggled, they wept, they were scorned, persecuted, felt lost, abandoned sometimes, by God. And if that wasn’t enough we read that Jesus told his disciples they’d need to take up their cross, and it would be a heavy burden.

But there was honesty in these words. From Jesus, from the psalmist, from Jeremiah.

Of the realities of life, and the realities of true faith.

I often say that Jesus never said it would be easy. Living on Sark, in many respects is easier than many places, homelessness, drug abuse, extreme poverty, war, violence, crime, rape, persecution are things we hear of elsewhere.

But we’re not without our problems, as you all know, and some of those are quite tough on people’s lives and mental health, long term wellbeing and economic stability.

Many are protected from some of this by wealth, be it earned or inherited, but many quietly suffer, or even hide, the inconsistency of income, the lack of ability to own their own homes, debts, the worry about healthcare, or social care, or old age.


But when you speak out about those things, propose solutions, or even dare to bring the gospel into them, then things get tough.

Criticism, accusations, denouncements, division of opinion, protection of the status quo, or the “Sark way”, however harmful to some that may be, come thick and fast. Or  the tired phrase “we’ve tried that, it didn’t work” and yet nothing else has been tried ever since, and so nothing changes for the better. And because if you speak out, you get criticism, then people stop speaking out, or indeed, never start.

After the resurrection we heard how Jesus came to the disciples and said “Peace be with you”. Today we hear him say he did not come to bring peace, but the sword. He’s speaking of a different peace of course- the peace the world often speaks of, but often doesn’t strive for. If you have Christ’s peace, though, that inner peace that comes from that deep personal faith, that courage and strength of the Holy Spirit, if you have that peace, then taking up the sword of justice Jesus would have his disciples wield becomes not a burden, but as Jeremiah said  “in my heart like a fire,” and it cannot be held in, as Jeremiah struggled to- he knew he would be damned if he spoke and damned if he didn’t, yet he knew God needed him to speak, and sometimes, for Jesus’ disciples, for me and for you, it is the same.

So, are we true disciples? Have we heard Jesus call us from the nets of our daily lives and followed, have we heard his words his teachings and are we prepared to go out, despite difficulties and opposition and speak out for what is right, true, just, merciful and loving?

Are we prepared, like the psalmist, to endure scorn for the Lord’s sake, to be mocked, hated even, to weep when people speak against us? Are we prepared to answer the call to speak out, like Jeremiah, or, like him are we struggling to speak out, even though we know we should, because we know the discomfort and unpopularity that might initially bring?

Is God really asking that of us?

Well, I believe, yes he is. Otherwise, what are disciples, what is his church? If we are to truly be faithful, if we have a faith that means anything at all, then God has a role for us, as part of his church, as part of that people who are to continue Christ’s work to bring about, as we pray week in, week out, God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven. And if you don’t believe that, if you don’t want to be part of that, then why are you praying that every time you recite the prayer Jesus himself gave us?

And yes, in many respects Sark is not the toughest place to live, and many are quite comfortable with how it is, how their lives are. But there are many here whose lives are not so easy, there are injustices and problems, inequalities and long-term problems sustaining the lifestyle many are so comfortably living just now, perhaps unknowingly at the expense of others. And not just here, but throughout the world.

If the church, which should stand for justice, for love, for equality, for mercy and grace, for healing, for wholeness and quality of living, if the church is not part of that change, here, or worldwide, then, like it or not, it becomes part of the problem.


And if you and I are not part of the change, we become part of the problem too, complicit in allowing the inequalities and injustices to continue for those that worry what will happen to them when their health deteriorates, when they get old, when they have no job or income in the winter, when their mental health means they can’t cope anymore, when their lease runs out and there’s no-where else to live, when they’re struggling to fill the food cupboard or pay for oil or electricity. Even when people then say “if they can’t hack it they should leave”.


But as you think on that, and how tough being part of kingdom change might be, go back again to our readings. Because there is encouragement there, amongst all the lament, amongst all the difficulties faced by those of faith.

There is the psalmist’s cry out to the Lord, the prayer for salvation through God’s love, there is the praise of Jeremiah, despite all his troubles, the praise of God because Jeremiah knows God can being salvation and justice. There are the words of Jesus which bring hope when there may not seem to be any.

Jesus said “Do not be afraid, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be known”

God’s eyes are all seeing, all knowing and ultimately God will bring about the kingdom of justice and love we yearn for, and we can have such faith in that, that all fear of opposition is cast aside. And, Jesus says, amongst all the angst the trouble, the bitterness the opposition we might face “whoever loses their life for my sake will find it”

Lose their comfortable life, their life that means not facing the realities, the problems. But gain a new sort of life in Jesus.

Are we prepared to do that. Because when we do, we  might find that we really do discover new life in him. And then, we too, like Jeremiah ,like the psalmist, can lift our voices in praise.