Keep in Touch: 13th September 2020

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13th September 2020

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

You’ve heard it often enough: ‘One rule for us and another for them.’ It usually means the speaker feels hard done by in comparison to someone else who’s received better treatment. When you’ve got the rough end of the stick and another person in the same circumstance has got away with it, resentment and anger often follow. Our sense of justice and fairness is affronted. Lockdown rules must apply as much to the powerful and rich as they do to the poor and powerless; it’s face coverings for all (excepting medical necessity) not just those that must do as they’re told; and patiently waiting your turn is the right thing to do without bullying your way to the front. Our senses of equitable behaviour and fair treatment run deep.

There was something like this going on amongst the Christians in Rome to whom Paul was writing (Romans 14.1-12). One group were vegetarian teetotallers who rigorously kept holy days, and the other group ate meat whenever they could, boozed when the opportunity arose, and didn’t give a fig about holy days. They were together in the church but not together in behaviour. Resentment and condemnation were rife. Each group no doubt more than ready to carp about the other and endlessly criticise. We all recognise the process and can hear the echoes in many things said and done in recent weeks.

The Roman Christians, Paul reminds them, have forgotten that they are all believers. They might consider each other, in their different ways, deluded but they can’t deny their common faith in Christ. Respect, love, and mutual concern are non-negotiable in that common faith. Likewise, a fellow believer’s conscience must be respected, even if you think it misguided. Only God can judge, says Paul.

And that’s where Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving slave (Matthew 18.21-35) amplifies Paul’s point. When it comes to mutual respect and what flows from it, the unforgiving slave makes a mockery of the king’s mercy towards him. No wonder then that the king is so angry and orders him to be tortured. The parable has an over-the-top quality to it to make the point forcefully.

All the parable’s action takes place within one royal household. Everyone listening to the parable knew exactly how honour and personal obligations work in such a household. The king forgives his slave a huge debt that has accrued whilst he’s been making full use of his position in the household. The king’s forgiveness goes way beyond what a person of inferior status might have expected. The king extends his royal compassion to include someone who has no claim whatsoever to such royal mercy.

That the slave refuses to in turn extend such mercy to another slave (someone of a status like his own) who owes only a paltry sum in comparison to his own forgiven debt, is to profoundly dishonour the king’s mercy. It is as if that mercy was less than worthless. The slave’s action is the worst kind of insult. It leaves the king with no alternative but to respond in the harshest manner. His anger is justifiable.

The parable asks us a hard ‘one rule for us and another for them’ kind of question. Is it that we, like the first slave, refuse to emulate in our behaviour towards one another the mercy we ourselves have received? The parable suggests such behaviour mocks God. Whereas mercy, patience, and respect are reflections of God’s love towards us.

With every blessing,
Christopher Burkett.

Readings for 14th Sunday after Trinity:

  • Genesis 50: 15-21
  • Psalm 103: [1-7]. 8-13,
  • Romans 14: 1-12,
  • Matthew 18: 21-35

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 (holytrinityblacon) for updates.

SUNDAY WORSHIP We meet for worship at Holy Trinity Church at 9.30am each Sunday from now on. Everyone will need to wear a face covering (unless exempt). If you have a cough or are feeling unwell, please do not come to church. The church will remain open for a while on Sunday morning, for private prayer after the service is over. PCC have decided that the service will be a Eucharist alternate weeks, starting from 20th September.

MINIBUS The minibus will be providing lifts to church on Sunday mornings for those who need them. If you would like to have a lift, please contact the parish office or Tina Upton.

JOIN US FOR EVENING PRAYER every Wednesday at 5pm via Zoom. This will continue for the foreseeable future. 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

KEEPING IN TOUCH We will continue to produce these weekly letters. Please collect your letter when you attend church.

ANNUAL PARISH MEETING and vestry meeting will be held on Sunday 27th September at 10.00am. We will be electing Churchwardens, PCC members and deanery synod members, as well as appointing sidespeople. Nomination forms are available at the back of church, or else please contact Lynn Wakefield (01244 880135). Electoral roll for checking is in church also. The reports are attached to this notice, any questions in writing please to the parish office or the Rector, before 5pm on 24th September.

PRAYING FOR BLACON 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: Harthill Road, The Parade, Tomlin’s Terrace, Carlisle Road.

Charity number 1180853