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Reflection for Trinity 4

1 Jul 2020 • From Elizabeth, our Vicar

Sunday 5th July - Proper 9

Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds

Reading: Matthew 11.16-19 & 25-30

Jesus said, ‘but to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’

At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Reflection

In Saint Matthew’s Gospel we hear a lot about community - the nature of community and the interconnectedness of people within a community; really about how we need each other and are interdependent on each other, regardless of whether we always like each other or always agree with one another.

We’re social not solitary creatures and so even the more solitary minded amongst us need other people some of the time, if we’re to stay at least partially in touch with reality. While of course the more social creatures amongst us probably need many people around for much of the time to keep themselves in touch with reality. We’re all different, some of us like a calm and peaceful life where a party is a nightmare to be endured, and others of us like a lively and bustling life where a month without a party is a nightmare and leaves us with withdrawal symptoms.

We’re all different, but we’re all human and because we’re human we’re all social – some are just more social than others – and so we all need each other and we’re all interconnected within, and indeed outside of, our community.

There’s a southern African notion which is encompassed in the word ubuntu, which translates into English as, ‘a person is a person through a person’. Which means that if someone asks you when you met them, ‘are you well?’ instead of the type of response that we’re all familiar with, ‘I am thank you, how are you?’the African notion of ubuntu gives the response, ‘I am well if you are well.’

Ubuntu gives us a sense of human belonging which is fundamental to human spiritual need. It provides a place of welcome where everyone belongs; stranger as well as familiar face, the best friend as well as the less well regarded. It is, surely, what we should try to nurture within our communities and within our churches, the idea that we can each only be truly well if others around us and within our communities are truly well also.

People have always lived in communities. Those communities have changed over time and people’s roles within communities have shifted, but communities have always been there and sometimes they’ve been good and sometimes they’ve been less than good. Sometimes communities have included people and sometimes they’ve excluded people – human beings don’t always behave well, the history of the past and the news stories of the present make that clear. Humans are social creatures and yet so often they have difficulty getting along with one another in a community, whether that community is a neighbourhood, a village, a city, a nation or a world.

Jesus says important things about the Christian community.

He says, ‘when you pray begin with these words, ‘Our Father.’ Not my Father or your Father but our Father, it’s a shared prayer for a shared faith and a shared community, and it’s given to us by the leader of that faith.

He says, ‘When two or three are gathered in my name’. Over recent weeks we’ve been encountering new ways of Christian gathering – Zoom, the internet, our website, the Iona service we know we’ve sharing with others. We’ve discovered the validity of these alternative styles of gathering and we’ve come to value the sense of community all these provide.

Jesus also says that, ‘Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds’. Or as the theologian Tom Wright translates that phrase, ‘but wisdom is as wisdom does – and wisdom will be vindicated.’ There is surely no point or purpose in wisdom and no sense to be made of wisdom if there is no sense of community in which wisdom can be shared, spread and nurtured.

We are a community, a Christian community, and as such we’re called on to help one another, to support one another in our weaknesses and our vulnerabilities, to share our abilities and skills, to rejoice in our joys and successes, to be important to one another. We’re called on to grow, sustain and enable the Christian community within the local community and to show others that they are important to us just as they are, with all their oddities and their annoying ways.

And so we do well to remember the wisdom of Ubuntu,

‘I am well, if you are well.’

Prayers

A prayer from the Chapel of Unity at Coventry Cathedral

Father, we pray for your church throughout the world, that it may share to the full in the work of your Son, revealing you to all people and reconciling all people to you and to one another; that Christians may learn to love one another and their neighbours, as you have loved us; that the church may more and more reflect the unity which is your will and your gift; we pray through Jesus Christ. Amen

Take some time to pray in silence for those who are sick,

those who are bereaved,

those who are struggling with the restrictions to daily life,

and those who are on your own heart and mind this day.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven.

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

the power and the glory,

for ever and ever.Amen.

A Blessing

God be your comfort, your strength;

God be your hope and support;

God be your light and your way

and the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life,

remain with you now and forever. Amen