Monday, 9 September 2019

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 15 September 2019,
Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity,
Vocations Sunday

Old drachmae coins in a tin box outside an antiques shop in Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Next Sunday, 15 September 2019, is the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XIII). This Sunday is also being marked in the Church of Ireland as Vocations Sunday.

The appointed readings in the Revised Common Lectionary, as adapted for use in the Church of Ireland, are in two groups: the continuous readings and the paired readings.

Continuous readings: Jeremiah 4: 11-12, 22-28; Psalm 14; I Timothy 1: 12-17; Luke 15: 1-10. There is a link to these readings HERE.

Paired readings: Exodus 32: 7–14; Psalm 51: 1–11; I Timothy 1: 12-17; Luke 15: 1-10. There is a link to these readings HERE.

Torn and ragged drachma banknotes in a tin box outside an antiques shop in Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Part 1, Reflecting on the readings

In the Gospel reading next Sunday, we read about the woman who has ten drachmae, but when she loses one of them she sweeps thoroughly through every dark corner of her house until she finds it. Ten drachmae did not amount to much at the time, although over four days last month [17, 18, 22 and 24 August 2019], the Hunt Museum in Limerick held a child-friendly event at the Hunt Café described as ‘Stamp a Dekadrachma.’ It was an opportunity to learn more about classical Greeks by stamping your own 10 Drachma coin, learning about the history of the coin and making your own to take away. One version of this 10 Drachma coin celebrated the victory of the Greek city of Syracuse over Athens in the year 413 BC, another the victory over Carthage in 405 BC.

to be more up-to-date, I was working in Greece some years ago at a time when the Drachma was being phased out as the national currency, and the Euro was being introduced.

The Drachma (δραχμή) was the currency in Greece throughout several periods in history. It began as an ancient Greek currency unit issued by many city states over a period of 10 centuries, from the Archaic period throughout the classical period, the Hellenistic period up to the Roman period under Greek imperial coinage.

As far as I can remember, there were about 330 or 350 drachmae to the Euro. I still have a few old drachma notes left, stuck in holiday guidebooks or stuck into holiday reading. But I have been unable to exchange them since 2012. Until then, you needed 587.5000 drachma to get €1.

So a drachma in my days was worth about as much as a farthing. And when Greeks hear the passage in Saint Luke’s Gospel provided for next Sunday, they hear about the woman sweeping her house, searching not for a valuable silver coin but for a tiny worthless coin, searching for a farthing.

The Greek text says not that she has ten silver coins, but that she has ten drachmae and has lost one.

When she finds it, she is rejoicing over very little. And when she throws a party to rejoice with her friends, it is going to cost her more than the rest of her savings if she only has 10 drachmae, it is going to cost abundant generosity, generosity that reflects the abundant generosity of God.

Some years ago, Dr Philip Matyszak of Cambridge University published a light-hearted introduction to Classics, Ancient Athens on Five Drachmas a Day (2008). But you probably would not have been able to even buy a bottle of retsina or bottle of ouzo in ancient Athens for half of what this woman had saved.

And how the tax collectors who heard this parable (verse 1) must have laughed with ridicule! Finding a drachma certainly was not going to help the party spirit, never mind being worth considering for taxes and tax collecting.

‘Stamp a Dekadrachma’ … but how much was 10 drachma worth … and how much was one drachma worth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Leona Helmsley, the ‘Queen of Mean,’ was reported to have said: ‘We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes …’ But this little old woman probably had too little and she was probably too poor to be preyed on by tax collectors.

Sometimes, when we get caught up in grand plans and grand schemes, we forget about the little people.

We can be so committed to building programmes and working for the greater good of the wider Church or the wider community, we can forget those people who are on the margins, the little people, the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised, for whom the Gospel ought to be good news.

But is it?

I remember how in Achill I once heard about a shepherd who died on a cliff side as he went in search of a lost sheep, and slipped on the edge. A local man reacted by pointing out what a small price sheep fetched in the mart in those days.

When you do find a lost sheep, it has probably been caught in brambles, is full of dirt and matted with droppings. It is not a pleasant fluffy creature, as seen in so many stained glass windows. It may not even be worth bringing home, in the eyes of a shepherd or a sheep farmer. In its panic and distress, it will have lost weight, and may not be possible to sell.

So often we think of people in monetary terms … What they are worth to us, as if they were buying and selling.

You may remember the days when sustentation fund lists were pinned to the back of the church door, for everyone to see as they left on a Sunday morning. They were always headed by the richest parishioners, who were also the most powerful … they were on the vestry, they were on diocesan synod, they were parochial nominators and they were episcopal electors.

But the little people must have looked at those lists and felt that in the eyes of the Church they were not worth a farthing, that they were the lost drachma, the lost sheep.

As we are caught up in the great plans of the church, politics, business and society, let us not forget the little people, and never let us be too proud to become little people again, especially in the eyes of our heavenly Father, worth only a drachma or a farthing in the eyes of others, but worth the life of his Son.

‘Or what woman having ten silver coins (drachmae) …’ (Luke 15: 8) … a worn and tattered 10 drachmae note from 1940 was worthless soon after it was issued (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Luke 15: 1-10:

1 Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

3 So he told them this parable: 4 ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.

8 ‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost’ (Luke 15: 4) … ‘Paternoster’ or ‘Shepherd and Sheep’, a bronze sculpture by Dame Elisabeth Frink in Paternoster Square, near Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Liturgical Resources:

Liturgical Colour: Green

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
Help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Collect of the Word:

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,
you lead back to yourself all who go astray.
Preserve your people in your loving care,
that we may reject whatever is contrary to you
and may follow all things that sustain our life in your Son,
Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God our creator,
you feed your children with the true manna,
the living bread from heaven.
Let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage
until we come to that place
where hunger and thirst are no more;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Suggested Hymns:

Jeremiah 4: 11-12, 22-28:

140, The Lord will come and not be slow
540, To thee, our God, we fly

Psalm 14:

649, Happy are they, they that love God
Exodus 32: 7-14:

584, Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
358, King of glory, King of peace
372, Through all the changing scenes of life
374, When all thy mercies, O my God

Psalm 51: 1-11:

397, Alleluia! Alleluia! Opening our hearts to him
297, Come, thou Holy Spirit, come
614, Great Shepherd of your people, hear
208, Hearken, O Lord, have mercy upon us
553, Jesu, lover of my soul
305, O Breath of life, come sweeping through us
638, O for a heart to praise my God
557, Rock of ages, cleft for me

I Timothy 1: 12-17:

478, Go forth and tell! O Church of God, awake!
6, Immortal, invisible, God only wise
553, Jesu, lover of my soul
429, Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us
231, My song is love unknown
102, Name of all majesty
657, O God of Bethel, by whose hand
366, Praise, my soul, the King of heaven

Luke 15: 1-10:

683, All people that on earth do dwell
642, Amazing grace (how sweet the sound!)
328, Come on and celebrate
644, Faithful Shepherd, feed me
319, Father, of heaven, whose love profound
569, Hark, my soul. It is the Lord
587, Just as I am, without one plea
105, O the deep, deep love of Jesus
438, O thou who at thy eucharist didst pray
20, The King of love my shepherd is
660, Thine for ever! God of love

Part 2, Vocations Sunday 15 September 2019:

Recently, the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe produced a leaflet on Vocations, in which clergy in the diocese spoke in their own words about their call to ministry in their own words and tell their story of how they came to be ordained.

They ask: ‘How does God call his people to their vocations?’

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Christ speaks in three parables of things lost and found: the one lost sheep among 100; the one sinner who repents in contrast to the 99 righteous people; and the woman who has lost a small coin that others might not even bother to look for.

If you are preaching or reflecting on vocations on Vocations Sunday, you might like to consider people who have been hiding their vocation, whether this is to lay or ordained ministry, but how God may continue to seek them out.

You may consider sharing one or two of the varied stories in the leaflet produced in the diocese.

As the leaflet says, sometimes it takes a long while for people to recognise that you’re being called by God to his service.’

Sometimes it takes an even longer time for the person themselves to accept what others know very clearly.

Might it be yours is going to be a chance encounter with someone who sees something in you.

Sometimes, something changes and that feeling becomes a deep inner sense of the touch of God.

Let people know that a vocation for ministry be ground-breaking, like it was for women and that a vocation to the ministry can fit around other work.

There is a uniqueness to every calling and to every person’s sense of the role they can have in ministry, lay or ordained.

This video clip on vocations, produced in the Church of Ireland, includes an interview with the Dean of Limerick, the Very Revd Niall Sloane, who also features in the diocesan leaflet. This video-clip can be downloaded from this site, and could be used instead of a sermon on Sunday.

Liturgical resources:

The Collect for Vocations to Holy Orders:

Almighty God,
you have entrusted to your Church
a share in the ministry of your Son our great High Priest:
Inspire by your Holy Spirit the hearts of many
to offer themselves for ordination in your Church,
that strengthened by his power,
they may work for the increase of your kingdom
and set forward the eternal praise of your name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect of the Fifth Sunday after Trinity:

Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
Hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Christ.

Part 3, The Season of Creation, 2019

The Season of Creation is celebrated throughout the Christian world from 1 September, the feast of Creation, to 4 October, the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.

This year, the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Churches and the World Council of Churches have united in celebrating this special time.

Resources for Sunday and weekday services throughout the Season of Creation were posted on this site on 21 August 2019 HERE.

Each week during this season, these pages are also offering resources and reflections on the Sunday Gospel reading related to the theme of the Season of Creation, which have been circulated by the Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, the Right Revd Kenneth Kearon.

Homily or Gospel Reflection by Jane Mellett:

The three parables of things lost and found emphasise the unending forgiveness of God and God’s rejoicing for those who return. In each of the situations there is a frantic search for that which is lost and a huge celebration when the lost is found. In the third parable of the Lost Son there is much to reflect on. We hear that the younger brother eventually ‘came to his senses’. We might pray today that God shows us the aspects of our lives in which we also need to ‘come to our senses’.

In this Season of Creation (1 September to 4 October), we reflect on how each of us needs the transforming acceptance and forgiveness that Christ offers. We lament the destruction of God’s creation, we reflect on the loss of bio-diversity and the loss of human life caused by climate breakdown. Like the Lost Son we pray that as a global community we might ‘come to our senses’ and take the actions that are necessary to change course. It all seems so huge and perhaps we feel there is nothing significant we can do. That is not the case. As parishes we can lead by example and show our commitment to care for the earth. The future of our environment depends on the action we take now as a society. As with all significant change, it begins with the grassroots.

This is an issue that the Church can link with the wider community and offer a space to dialogue and pray.

This week can you encourage your family to make small changes in the home such as ensuring all waste is correctly recycled, composting, encouraging one another to use public transport or walk/cycle when possible? We start with ourselves.

‘I wish to address every person living on this planet … I urgently appeal … for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and it’s human roots, concern and affect us all’ (Laudato Si, 3, 14).

‘This week can you encourage your family to make small changes in the home such as ensuring all waste is correctly recycled’ … rubbish piled up outside the Palace in Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

The hymn suggestions are provided in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling. The hymn numbers refer to the Church of Ireland’s Church Hymnal (5th edition, Oxford: OUP, 2000)

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