Monday, 18 June 2018

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 24 June 2018,
Trinity IV and the Birth
of Saint John the Baptist

‘I líonta Dé go gcastar sinn, May we meet in God’s nets’ … a modern stained-glass window in Saint Maur’s Church, Rush (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday next, 24 June 2018, is the Fourth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity IV), and also the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist.

The appointed readings in the Revised Common Lectionary for Trinity IV as adapted for use in the Church of Ireland are:

Continuous readings: I Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32-49; Psalm 9: 9-20, Psalm 133; II Corinthians 6: 1-13; and Mark 4: 35-41.

Paired readings: Job 38: 1-11; Psalm 107: 1-3, 23-32; II Corinthians 6: 1-13; and Mark 4: 35-41.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

The appointed readings for the Feast of Saint John the Baptist in the Revised Common Lectionary as adapted for use in the Church of Ireland are:

Isaiah 40: 1-11; Psalm 85: 7-13; Acts 13: 14b-26 or Galatians 3: 23-29; Luke 1: 57-66, 80.

This posting is divided into two sections. The first section focuses on the readings for Trinity IV, and the accompanying liturgical resources and suggested hymns; the second section looks briefly at the readings for the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, and the accompanying liturgical resources and suggested hymns.

Part 1: Trinity IV:

Reflecting on the readings:

Villiers School, Limerick … the venue for the diocesan synod next Saturday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

For those of us who are preaching next Sunday, we will be speaking in parishes immediately after the Diocesan Synod (Saturday 23 June 2018). We may have discussed dreams for the future of the diocese. But those discussions may be a mixture of dreams and anxieties for some people and for some parishes in this diocese.

What are your dreams?

What are your worst nightmares?

As we grow up and mature, we tend to have fewer fears of the outside world, and as adults we begin to cope with the fears we once had as children, by turning threats into opportunities.

The fears I had as a child – of snakes, of the wind, of storms at sea, of thunder and lightning – are no longer the stuff of recurring nightmares they were as a child – I have learned to be cautious, to be sensible and to keep my distance, and to be in awe of God’s creation.

But most of us have recurring dreams that are vivid and that have themes that keep repeating themselves. They fall into a number of genres, and you will be relieved to know if you suffer from them that most psychotherapists identify a number of these types of dreams that most of us deal with in our sleep at various stages in adult life.

They include dreams about:

● Drowning.

● Finding myself unprepared for a major function or event, whether it is social or work-related.

● Flying or floating in the air, but then falling suddenly.

● Being caught naked in public.

● Missing a train or a bus or a plane.

● Caught in loos or lifts that do not work, or overwork themselves.

● Calling out in a crowd but failing to vocalise my scream or not being heard in the crowd or recognised.

● Falling, falling into an abyss.

There are others. But in sleep the brain can act as a filter or filing cabinet, helping us to process, deal with and put aside what we have found difficult to understand in our waking hours, or to try to find ways of dealing with our lack of confidence, feelings of inadequacy, with the ways we confuse gaining attention with receiving love, or with our needs to be accepted, affirmed and loved.

In the principal Old Testament reading for next Sunday, Saul lives in fear and is haunted by his dreams (I Samuel 17: 10-12), while David overcomes his greatest fear by facing it in the person of Goliath (verse 32-49).

In the epistle reading (II Corinthians 6: 1-13), Saint Paul takes courage and faces his greatest fears, including ‘sleepless nights,’ and speaks frankly with an open heart (verses 11-13).

The plight of the disciples in the Gospel reading (Mark 4: 35-41) seems to be the working out of a constant, recurring, vivid dream of the type that many of us experience at some stage: the feelings of drowning, floating and falling suddenly, being in a crowd and yet alone, calling out and not being heard, or not being recognised for who we are.

Yet, the disciples are seasoned fishers and sailors, and they know the real dangers of sudden storms and swells that can blow up on a lake and they know the safety of a good boat, as long as it has a good crew.

Christ is asleep in the boat when a great gale rises, the waves beat the side of the boat, and it is soon swamped by the waters.

Christ seems oblivious to the calamity that is unfolding around him and to the fear of the disciples. They have to wake him, and by then they fear they are perishing.

Christ wakes, rebukes the wind, calm descends on the sea, and Christ challenges those on the boat: ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ (verse 40).

Instead of being calmed, they are now filled with awe. Do they recognise Christ for who he truly is? They ask one another: ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ (verse 31).

Was the storm on the water an illusion?

Was the fear in the disciples the product of over-worked minds while they too were sleeping?

Did they not fully realise the powers of Christ and who he truly is?

Did the wind cease when they too woke from their dreams?

All of these questions are over-analytical and fail to deal with the real encounter that takes place.

Even before the Resurrection, Christ tells the disciples not to be afraid, a constant theme in the post-resurrection accounts.

Do those in the boat begin to ask truly who Christ is because he has calmed the storm or because he has calmed their fears?

In our epistle reading, Saint Paul almost chides us for these questions, reminding us that we too can have a variety of experiences that help us to grow in faith (see II Corinthians 6: 1-13).

An icon of the Church as a boat, including Christ, the Apostles and the Church Fathers (Icon: Deacon Matthew Garrett, www.holy-icons.com)

Since the early history of the Church, the boat has symbolised the Church.

The bark (barque or barchetta) symbolises the Church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution but finally reaching safe harbour. Part of the imagery comes from the ark saving Noah’s family during the Flood (I Peter 3: 20-21). Christ protects Peter’s boat and the Disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee (see also Matthew 14: 22-33; John 6 16-21). The mast forms the shape of the Cross.

It is an image that appears in Apostolic Constitutions and the writings of Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria. We still retain the word nave for the main part of the church, which, architecturally often looks like an up-turned boat.

So, I am not suggesting that on Sunday morning next any of us should encourage playing stupidly in boats in choppy waters or storms.

But if we are to dream dreams for our parish, the diocese, for the Church, for the Kingdom of God, we need to be aware that it comes at the risk of feeling we are being marginalised by those we see as brothers and sisters, and risk being seen as dreamers rather than people of action by others: for our dreams may be their nightmares.

If we are going to dream dreams for our parish, for the diocese, for the Church, for the Kingdom of God, we may need to step out of our safety zones, our comfort zones, and know that this comes with a risk warning.

And if we are going to dream dreams for our parish, for the Church, for the diocese, for the Kingdom of God, we need to keep our eyes focussed on Christ, and to know that the Church is there to bring us on that journey.

Let us dream dreams, take risks for the Kingdom of God, step outside the box, but let us keep our eyes on Christ and remember that the boat, the Church, is essential for our journey, and let us continue to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

The sails of a boat and the shape of the cross in the harbour at Collioure in the south of France (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Mark 4: 35-41

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

‘ … they took him with them in the boat, just as he was’ (Mark 4: 36) … boats in the small harbour at Georgioupoli in Crete last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Liturgical resources:

Liturgical Colour: Green

The Collect of the Day:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
Increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide,
we may so pass through things temporal
that we finally lose not the things eternal:
Grant this, heavenly Father,
for Jesus Christ's sake, our Lord.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Eternal God,
comfort of the afflicted and healer of the broken,
you have fed us at the table of life and hope.
Teach us the ways of gentleness and peace,
that all the world may acknowledge
the kingdom of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Suggested hymns:

The hymns suggested for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

I Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49:

643, Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
566, Fight the good fight with all thy might
668, God is our fortress and our rock
593, O Jesus, I have promised
487, Soldiers of Christ, arise
488, Stand up, stand up for Jesus
662, Those who would valour see (He who would valiant be)
372, Through all the changing scenes of life

Job 38: 1-11:

612, Eternal Father, strong to save
581, I, the Lord of sea and sky
95, Jesu, priceless treasure
29, Lord of beauty, thine the splendour
34, O worship the King all-glorious above
369, Songs of praise the angels sang
36, The spacious firmament on high

Psalm 9: 9-20:

668, God is our fortress and our rock
12, God is our strength and refuge

Psalm 133:

518, Bind us together, Lord
522, In Christ there is no east or west
525, Let there be love shared among us
438, O thou, who at thy eucharist didst pray
507, Put peace into each other’s hands
661, Through the night of doubt and sorrow

Psalm 107: 1-3, 23-32:

683, All people that on earth do dwell
666, Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side
612, Eternal Father, strong to save
353, Give to our God immortal praise
128, Hills of the north, rejoice
584, Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
652, Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
30, Let us, with a gladsome mind
484, Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
384, Lord, thy word abideth
527, Son of God, eternal Saviour

II Corinthians 6: 1-13:

643, Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
566, Fight the good fight with all thy might
417, He gave his life in selfless love
587, Just as I am, without one plea
652, Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
487, Soldiers of Christ, arise
488, Stand up. Stand up for Jesus

Mark 4: 35-41

666, Be still my soul: the Lord is on thy side
563, Commit your ways to God
612, Eternal Father, strong to save
2, Faithful one, so unchanging
648, God be with you till we meet again
300, Holy Spirit, truth divine
553, Jesu, lover of my soul
95, Jesu, priceless treasure
584, Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
588, Light of the minds that know him
18, Lord, I come before your throne of grace
593, O Jesus, I have promised
527, Son of God, eternal Saviour
47, We plough the fields and scatter
22, You shall cross the barren desert

An icon of the Birth of Saint the Baptist from the Monastery of Anopolis in the Museum of Christian Art in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Part 2: The Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist:

Saint Luke’s Gospel takes a full chapter before the evangelist gets to the story of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. Saint Matthew’s Gospel introduces its account of Christ’s ministry by telling us first the story of Saint John the Baptist. Saint Mark begins his Gospel with the appearance of Saint John the Baptist. And the first person we meet in Saint John’s Gospel is Saint the Baptist.

But Saint Luke is alone in telling the story of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and the birth of Saint John the Baprtist.

In looking at the readings for Trinity IV, we have looked at the role of dreams and fears in challenging our faith and helping it to grow. And this experience is dramatically presented in this Gospel reading too.

Luke 1: 57-66, 80

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Liturgical resources:

Liturgical colour: White

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
by whose providence your servant John the Baptist
was wonderfully born,
and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Saviour
by the preaching of repentance:
lead us to repent according to his preaching
and, after his example,
constantly to speak the truth, boldly to rebuke vice,
and patiently to suffer for the truth’s sake;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

We are fellow-citizens with the saints
and the household of God,
through Christ our Lord,
who came and preached peace to those who were far off
and those who are near: (Ephesians 2: 19, 17).

Preface:

In the saints
you have given us an example of godly living,
that, rejoicing in their fellowship,
we may run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
and with them receive the unfading crown of glory.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Merciful Lord,
whose prophet John the Baptist
proclaimed your Son as the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world:
grant that we who in this sacrament have known
your forgiveness and your life-giving love,
may ever tell of your mercy and your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Blessing:

God give you the grace
to share the inheritance of Saint John the Baptist and of his saints in glory:

An icon of Saint John the Baptist in a small chapel in Georgioupoli in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Suggested hymns:

The hymns suggested for the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist (24 June) in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

Isaiah 40: 1-11:
120, Comfort, comfort ye my people
122, Drop down, ye heaven from above
644, Faithful Shepherd feed me
6, Immortal, invisible, God only wise
535, Judge, eternal, throned in splendour
134, Make way, make way, for Christ the King
141, These are the days of Elijah

Psalm 85: 7-13:

695, God of mercy, God of grace
539, Rejoice, O land, in God thy might
140, The Lord will come and not be slow

Acts 13: 14b-26:

250, All hail the power of Jesu’s name
689, Come, sing praises to the Lord above
460, For all your saints in glory, for all your saints at rest (verses 1, 2i, 3)
125, Hail to the Lord’s anointed
161, I know a rose-tree springing
135, O come, O come, Emmanuel
136, On Jordan’s bank, the Baptist’s cry

Galatians 3: 23-29:

250, All hail the power of Jesu’s name
389, All who believe and are baptized
218, And can it be that I should gain
496, For the healing of the nations
522, In Christ there is no east or west
101, Jesus, the very thought of thee 358, King of glory, King of peace

Luke 1: 57-66, 80:

685, Blessed be the God of Israel
706, O bless the God of Israel

These hymns are also said to be suitable:

119, Come, thou long-expected Jesus
459, For all the saints, who from their labour’s rest
126, Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding
124, Hark the glad sound! The Saviour comes
471, Rejoice in God’s saints, today and all days!

Saint John the Baptist depicted on a pillar in the Church of the Four Martyrs in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

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