Keep in Touch: 16th August 2020

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16th August 2020

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I have a friend who has employed some insurer-appointed builders who are working on his house to do ‘a foreigner’ for him after the insurance repair is over. ‘Do a foreigner’ – an odd expression, isn’t it? But yes, the builders are doing something outside their agreed contract, beyond what is expected, and not typically part of what they are contracted to do. The extra job is therefore ‘foreign’ to their original undertaking. In this case the term is wholly positive. The builders are capable and trustworthy. My friend is delighted that they’re willing to do ‘a foreigner.’

Often, of course, to be termed ‘a foreigner’ doesn’t have any of that positivity attached to it. It’s usual about ‘them’ and the main thing to notice about ‘them’ is that they are not ‘us.’ Distinctions are being made; boundaries are being drawn; and, who is acceptable and who is not, is being marked. That sense of seeing some people as alien is there in all today’s Bible readings.

The prophet Isaiah insists that all people can be God’s people – it’s not about who you were born to or where you were born, God gathers all. We can imagine that the prophet was so direct and unambiguous because the message wasn’t popular. His hearers thought they knew exactly who the foreigners were and acted accordingly.

A similar thought lies behind the reading from Romans. Saint Paul’s critics thought his advocacy of Christian belief meant he was throwing aside his heritage. It was as if he was tearing up all that was precious and treating his own people as despised foreigners. ‘No way,’ says Paul. It’s not that God had rejected the ancient people of Abraham; far from it. Rather God extends his mercy to all people despite the ‘gone-wrongness’ of things. No one is a foreigner to God’s mercy.

The Gospel reading makes plain just how invidious this foreigner-labelling is. Even Jesus gets hooked by it. The woman who comes asking for help is on the wrong side of all the ‘them’ and ‘us’ boundaries. Ethnically, culturally, politically, economically, religiously, and in terms of gender; she’s as foreign as foreign can be.

There is every reason to ignore this woman. And that’s just what Jesus does initially, ‘he did not answer her at all.’ The prejudices, the stereotypes, the callousness, that infects every human soul, infects Jesus as well. In this he is at one with us. But let’s pray that we like him can be changed by human encounter. Not once, but three times she acknowledges him as Lord. Not once, but four times she pleads and shouts and challenges. She demands inclusion and Jesus sees the faith of that. Indeed, Jesus says her faith is ‘great,’ in stark contrast to the ‘little faith’ of the disciples in other parts of the Gospel.

‘We’re all in this together’ has been an oftenrepeated pandemic refrain. So much so that that some companies have even incorporated it into their commercial straplines. But we know the reality of the pandemic is a wide difference in outcomes and possibilities dependent on social, economic, and ethnic divides. ‘Us’ and ‘them’ figures all too prominently. These things can be deadly, literally. But in God’s economy there is no ‘them.’ Surely that means there can be no ‘foreigner’ in person or in what we do because God’s grace is for all.

With every blessing,
Christopher


READINGS for the 9th Sunday after Trinity (Year A)

  • Isaiah 56:1. 6-8,
  • Psalm 67,
  • Romans 11:1-2a. 29-32,
  • Matthew 15:[10-20]. 21-28

Readings available to read online (New Revised Standard Version - NRSV)


NOTICES

Holy Trinity Blacon are the living church of our living God, and we continue to be at work here!  If you are able, do check the parish website (especially the Coronavirus Support page) or our Facebook page  for updates.  We will put further worship and prayer up there (and on our You Tube channel) each Sunday morning by 10am.

JOIN US FOR EVENING PRAYER
every Wednesday at 5pm.  If you are not on the internet, it is possible to join us over the telephone – please contact us in advance if you would like to do that.

DAILY HOPE
is a free phone line for hymns, prayers and reflections – 0800 804 8044

FOR THOSE IN NEED 
Holy Trinity Church Hall is providing emergency food for families and individuals in need at this time. To register for this, please use this form.   For more information, please contact Blacon Action Team by email or 07719960541.

CHURCH ELECTORAL ROLL
Before our Parish Annual meeting in a few weeks’ time, we need to need to revise our Electoral Roll (the list of church members). If you want to check your entry, please contact Linda in the parish office, or else consult the copy in the church hall. Forms for alterations or additions are also available in the church hall.

RESTARTING WORSHIP IN CHURCH
will start 9.30am on Sunday 6th September (with suitable Covid-19 precautions). We had hoped to relay the contents online to those unable to attend, however we need technical assistance to make that possible. If you might be able to help, please contact Tina or Louise.

PRAYING FOR BLACON
During lockdown, Louise and Tina are taking our exercise particularly along those streets we are praying for each week.  Do join us in praying for those residents.  This week we pray for: Cotes Place, Bridgeman Road, Stubbs Place, Southway.

FOR YOUR DIARY
On Saturday 3rd October Louise will be ordained priest at the cathedral (with very limited attendance), but there will be a special service more can attend in church 9.30am on Sunday 4th October.